Hundreds gather for peaceful Unity Walk
Updated at 8:48 a.m. June 9, 2020, with additional information and photographs.
Hundreds of people gathered Saturday morning to participate in a Unity Walk in Leavenworth.
The event, which organizers called a peaceful protest, was kicked off at the Richard Allen Cultural Center and Museum with remarks from local officials including Joana Scholtz, president of the Leavenworth County branch of the NAACP.
“Our community has united to mourn the tragic death of George Floyd,” Scholtz said.
Floyd was a black man who died May 25 while in police custody in Minneapolis. His death has sparked protests across the United States and other parts of the globe.
“You are all the agents of the change we need,” Scholtz said to the crowd Saturday.
She said those in attendance were standing together to dedicate themselves to stop the silence that allows racism and racist policies to exist.
Leavenworth Deputy Police Chief Dan Nicodemus estimated that between 600 and 750 people turned out for the Unity Walk.
“We can’t make a change without each other, and that comes by not seeing color,” Edna Wagner said. “That comes by seeing an individual and what’s in here, which is your heart.”
Wagner is the executive director of the Richard Allen Cultural Center and Museum.
“Today starts the beginning of change,” Jermaine Wilson said.
Wilson is the founder of the Unity in the Community Movement in Leavenworth. He also serves on the Leavenworth City Commission.
He said racism has divided the country.
“Today we stand together, praying for unification,” he said.
Wilson said those who were in attendance were not against the police but stood against police brutality.
He said those who were in attendance need to come up with solutions that will lead to the implementation of laws that will hold law enforcement officers accountable.
Local police chiefs also spoke during the event.
Leavenworth Police Chief Pat Kitchens said as a police officer, he bears the responsibility of the actions taken by officers in Minneapolis.
“I bear that responsibility,” Kitchens said. “We all bear that responsibility.”
Kitchen noted Floyd said, “I can't breathe,” as an officer pressed a knee against his neck.
Kitchens said it is the responsibility of those who gathered for Saturday’s walk to breathe for Floyd. He said they need to use that breath to demand change and hold him and elected officials accountable.
Lansing Police Chief Steve Wayman, Lansing Mayor Mike Smith and Leavenworth Mayor Mike Griswold also spoke during the event. Colbie Fairley also spoke as a youth representative of the NAACP.
Following the remarks by speakers and a musical performance, those in attendance began what also was referred to as a United for Peace Walk.
The walk began in the area of Fourth and Kiowa streets. Walkers headed south to Seneca Street and then turned east to Esplanade Street. Walkers then headed north to Bob Dougherty Park.