In Kansas, Cops And Black Lives Matter Activists Are Showing The Nation How To Unite

It will hopefully be the first step of many.

Just hours after three officers were killed in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, a police department in Kansas hosted a scheduled community barbecue intended to bridge the gap between local law enforcement and the town they serve.

On Sunday, the Wichita Police Department announced on its website that it had been in contact with organizers from the Black Lives Matter movement about a protest they had planned for Sunday night. Instead of the protest, the chief of police Gordon Ramsay and Black Lives Matter activists opted to organize a "First Steps Cookout." 

Advertised on social media, the event originally had 400 people who RSVPed, but more than 1,000 turned up. It included free food for attendees and a 45-minute question and answer session with Ramsay. Perhaps best of all, the unifying event was met with huge support from the community and police.

"The response from the Wichita community was overwhelmingly positive and encouraging," officer Charlie Davidson said in an email to A Plus. "Many stated they have spent their lives living in Wichita, and had not before seen this type of transparency from the Wichita Police Department."

"First Steps Cookout" was hosted in Wichita's McAdams Park and are just the beginning of a long journey.

"These conversations will hopefully lead to barriers being diminished, and relationships or trust being developed," Officer Davidson said. "Additionally, this allowed for the police and community to come together as people with thoughts, feelings, ideas, and suggestions; instead of coming together as us versus them."

Though most in attendance expressed positive views about the entire event, some did use that time to express frustrations. 

According to KWCH12, one citizen said he felt like the event was being used to take attention away from the real cause of tension between police and the community, but the chief responded that change wouldn't happen overnight and these kinds of events are a good step in bridging the gap.

There was also a lot of dancing.

Using the hashtag #ThatsMyWichita, locals shared pictures and stories from the event that offered a heartwarming respite from the past month's headlines.

In his email to A Plus, officer Davidson acknowledged the larger context that this event is a part of.

"Recently, tragic events have rocked our nation regarding our men and women who stand between right and wrong in our communities," he wrote. "It is time we come together as humans and begin working together to figure out our future, and work together to better the lives of all those living in our communities."