Starting conversation

MARYVILLE, Mo. — With every act of violence committed against law enforcement officers and every video circulated of a person in a minority group killed at the hands of a police officer, tensions multiply and divide.

Now Maryville residents face the fallout, searching for the best way forward.

Nodaway County Prosecuting Attorney Bob Rice held a press conference Wednesday morning to make a public statement of support for law enforcement officials. Rice said he was motivated to do so by violence against law enforcement officers over the past three weeks in Dallas, Baton Rouge, and recently Kansas City.

“As I monitor the events throughout the nation, it seems to me that there are organized calls for violence against police,” his written statement reads.

These “organized calls,” Rice said, come from “certain groups” operating to create chaos.

Although Rice never mentioned the Black Lives Matter movement specifically, other officials around the country blame the group’s rhetoric for increasing anti-police sentiment.

In an interview with CNN on Sunday, Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke attributed the violence against law enforcement to the movement. Clarke said that since the movement began two years ago, the anti-police sentiment has “fueled this rage against the American police officer.”

Supporters of the movement counter these statements online, in nonviolent demonstrations, and in public statements that Black Lives Matter doesn’t condone violence to anyone. On the movement’s official website, it states, “it is not an anti-police-officer movement” and is not an “anti-white proposition.”

The website does specify that the movement rejects the idea that disrespect is criminal, and that it questions giving officers the “benefit of the doubt when it comes to policing black communities” due to broken trust with law enforcement.

For Xavier Kimble, a recent Northwest Missouri State graduate who currently works in Kansas City, Black Lives Matter is about raising awareness that blacks as well as other minority groups still suffer discrimination from a corrupt justice system.

While at Northwest this past spring, Kimble coauthored a column in the student newspaper, The Missourian.

“The message for Black Lives Matter does not imply that black lives are superior, but that black lives are not fought for to the same degree as white lives,” he wrote. “Justice is not equally distributed when a member of a minority group expresses concern about life, equality and equity only to be met with criticisms of being ungrateful, uneducated, and insensitive.”

The most recent attacks on police officers, Kimble said, have left Black Lives Matter advocates angry, too.

“It makes it difficult for people to take us seriously,” he said.

Kimble said that he doesn’t believe violence should ever be met with violence, and he doesn’t have a problem with law enforcement officials in general.

“I just want to communicate that white privilege exists,” he said. “And I’ve always wanted to communicate and acknowledge the systematic racism within our country when it comes to schools, or jobs.”

Read the full story that was first published July 22, 2016 in the Maryville Daily Forum, a daily newspaper in Maryville, Missouri.