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Black Lives Matter protesters break bread with Kansas police officers

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WICHITA, Kan. — A Kansas Black Lives Matter protest turned into a cookout with police officers, according to the Wichita Eagle.

Protesters had planned a march on Sunday, but after meeting with Police Chief Gordon Ramsay ultimately decided against the idea in favor of a barbecue with police. Organizers felt that a barbecue would allow for communication and trust to be built between the protesters and police, in light of their strained relationship.

Lt. Travis Rakestraw sat down with a diverse group of protesters, saying that the conversation he had with them felt more productive than most of the protests across the nation, which he believes are based more on confrontation than dialogue.

These conversations evolved into a public forum, where hundreds asked questions of Chief Ramsay: The questions were sharp. Was the barbecue a way to buy off the black community with food? How does a cookout help racial profiling? What were the police doing about issues affecting individuals?

“If you feel mistreated, I want to know about it,” Ramsay said. “If they feel they are being mistreated, at the scene is not the time to argue about it, wait until it’s over.”

Ramsay expressed his frustration for immoral police officers, as well. “Loud and clear I have zero tolerance for racial profiling or bias.”

Biases among officers has been a major concern among protesters. Lt. Rakestraw believes these biases are often unconscious among police.

“I don’t think anybody does it intentionally but we fill in the gaps with life experiences, what we read in the paper, and we start to view people as a generalization instead of understanding people as individuals,” he said.

Nevertheless, Chief Ramsay expressed a desire to hear more of the protesters concerns at a later date. Many in the audience praised Ramsay for holding the event, with several saying that they couldn’t remember a police chief meeting with the Wichita community like this, before.