KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Unarmed protesters are raising concerns that armed militia members who have been attending rallies at an upscale shopping and dining district in Kansas City might eventually spark violence.
The Kansas City Star reports that the militia has shown up several times this summer at the J.C. Nichols Memorial Fountain on the Country Club Plaza. The militia is part of the Three Percenters movement, which gets its name from the belief that just 3 percent of colonists rose up to fight the British.
Local activists have grown so concerned about the potential for violence that they have petitioned the Kansas City Police Department for protection.
The militia members who talked with the Star said they were concerned citizens there to help police provide security and were within their rights to be at the public events and carry firearms openly, as Missouri law allows.
Garrett Griffin, of Grandview, a 29-year-old communications coordinator for a nonprofit, started a petition on Change.org titled "KCPD: Keep the Militia on a Leash." It asks police to keep militia and counter-protesters at a safe distance behind a police line at future events and to issue a public statement declaring it an official policy.
"It's only a matter of time before somebody brings a gun to one of these rallies, and staring down their political opponents, does something stupid and pulls out a gun and shoots somebody," Griffin said.
Police Chief Rick Smith wrote on his blog that the department "has a number of practices to maintain peace and order at such events, and we use the minimum amount of intervention and/or force necessary." He said that at one protest last month officers mounted on horses were placed between two groups of protesters when there was a confrontation.
"KCPD will remain as uninvolved as we can to allow for the free expression of ideas," Smith said. "We cannot ask one group to leave a public park or other public area. If two families show up in a park, we can't tell one to stay and one to leave, and the same applies to protest groups."