At Least 100 Arrested In Kansas City's 'Fight For $15' Rally

Nov 29, 2016

A sea of red beanies, T-shirts and flags filled the median at 63rd and Paseo in Kansas City Tuesday night as more than 400 people gathered for the final phase of the "Fight for $15's Day of Disruption."

Workers nationwide celebrated the fourth anniversary of the Fight for $15, and the $61.5 billion low-wage workers have reportedly earned since the movement launched in 2012.

A rally at 63rd and Paseo kicked off the Fight for $15 demonstration Tuesday night. As protesters donned in red in connection with Stand Up KC gathered, cars driving by through rush hour traffic honked in support.
Credit Andrea Tudhope / KCUR 89.3

Across the Kansas City area, low-wage workers walked off their jobs starting at 6 a.m. Midday, University of Missouri-Kansas City students staged a walkout to join in solidarity with protesters. The final event began with a rally at 5 p.m., followed by a march to Troost Avenue and Meyer Boulevard at 6 p.m. 

When the crowd arrived, they were immediately met by the police -- seven officers on horseback, and nearly 40 by foot. Handfuls of protesters began sitting down in the street, causing the police to block off the streets for blocks. The crowd sang songs as arrests began.

Police picked protesters up one by one, cuffing them with twist ties and escorting them to the opposite curb.

Donna Birks was one of the last protesters sitting in the street awaiting arrest. 

"I'm sitting here for economic justice, and for people to start getting paid a proper wage, especially from these corporations that are making millions and billions in profit," Birks said.

Birks is retired now, but he worked for General Motors for 40 years, and is a member of the United Auto Workers labor union.

"I've never been to jail, so this is a new one for me. Sometimes you got to do what you got to do," Birks said.

By the end of the demonstration at 7:20, around 100 people were arrested. Among those arrested were Burger King employee Bridget Hughes and McDonald's employee Richard Eiker, both of whom spoke at the evening rally. Head Start childcare worker Kimmy DeVries was arrested along with Reverend Susan McCann of Grace Episcopal Church.

"I knew it would be a peaceful crowd," said Jackson County Sheriff Mike Sharp. "We do things differently here in Kansas City. We respect the community and the community respects us, and that's why this demonstration went the way it did."

Many demonstrators held posters reading 'I Am America.' Protesters boasted a message of unity in diversity.
Credit Andrea Tudhope / KCUR 89.3

The prevailing message of the night from the demonstrators went beyond the call to raise the minimum wage. 

"We stand up against racism, homophobia, sexism," said Bridget Hughes, the Burger King worker and mother of four who was arrested. "We won't stand for attacks. Tonight, we show we are united."

Andrea Tudhope is a freelance reporter and producer for KCUR 89.3. You can reach her at andreat@kcur.org.