African American community leader: Ground lost due to violence, looting

Published: Jun. 3, 2020 at 6:23 PM CDT
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During a Wednesday afternoon news conference in which Wichita Police Chief Gordon Ramsay discussed Tuesday night's violence and damage to businesses that led to at least 11 arrests, a leader in the African American community was among those invited to speak.

Greater Wichita Ministerial League President Pastor C. Richard Kirkendoll says the community "gained a lot of ground" in peaceful protests over the weekend that drew thousands to downtown Wichita and included participation from city leaders and members of the WPD, including Ramsay.

A couple nights of violence breaking out from the demonstrations erased some of that progress, aimed at addressing systematic changes many say are needed following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minn.

"What started out as, I think a well-intended protest, was hijacked by some individuals who have other intentions, Ramsay says of what happened Monday and Tuesday near 21st and Arkansas.

Kirekendoll says the movement lost ground because of what happened Monday and Tuesday nights and the focus shifted from the message to the crimes.

"We lost our focus of what this thing is all about," he says. "And I believe it's not the majority of the community, it's just a few."...We're gonna do everything we can to calm things down and get back on track."

"Getting back on track," he says, includes scheduling several peaceful protests, building off of experiences like the May 30 demonstration coordinated with WPD involvement.

Kirkendolls says the breakout of violence and damage to businesses near 21st and Arkansas is personal to him as it's the area where he grew up and where he delivers meals to seniors and neighborhood children from the Wichita school district.

"And what I was afraid of is that a stray bullet, whether it comes from police (or) a protester, would go in a house and hit an innocent kid we take food to every Friday," he says.

Kuykendoll says he hopes peace prevailing in Wichita can set the city apart.

"I pray that Wichita will be the example that other states will follow," he says.

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