KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A nine-months-pregnant Black woman whose arrest by a Kansas City police officer sparked outrage and an occupation of City Hall grounds was so overcome with emotion Thursday that she was unable to address a rally to demand police reform.
Deja Stallings ended up on the ground with an officer’s knee in her back during the Sept. 30 arrest that was captured on video. Civil rights organizations and others have camped out at City Hall since and have vowed not to leave until the officers involved and Police Chief Rick Smith are fired.
The protesters also want the city to redirect 50% of the police department’s budget to social services supporting the Black community.
On Thursday, Stallings struggled to walk from the car to the steps of City Hall, where she was expected to address the crowd. When her time to speak arrived, she managed to get out only a few words before she started to cry and had to sit down.
Stallings lawyer, Stacy Shaw, read her statement, in which she described the physical pain and a bruise that endures on her back a week after the arrest.
“I cry every day because I am scared for my baby,” she said. “My baby girl has not even been born yet and she is a victim of police brutality. I am trying to stay strong but I know my baby is a fighter. She needs to be the last child who is a victim of the KCPD. She needs the demands of this occupation to be met.”
Shaw said doctors have checked the unborn baby, named Dsyre, and she appears to be healthy.
Stallings was issued a municipal citation for hindering arrest after police said she interfered when they tried to arrest a man, and that she was put on the ground to be handcuffed because she resisted arrest.
Jackson County Prosecuting Attorney Jean Peters-Baker is reviewing the arrest.
Police said in a statement Thursday that the officers involved remain on duty.
“We are reviewing the incident as well,” spokesman Sgt. Jacob Becchina said, adding that police are cooperating with the prosecutors’ investigation.
Civil rights groups have said for months that Smith should resign or be fired because his department is plagued by racism and does not investigate or respond to unnecessary force or fatal shootings of Black people by officers.
Smith has said repeatedly that he does not intend to resign but otherwise has made no statement since the arrest. Mayor Quinton Lucas has said he does not believe it is feasible to reduce the police budget by 50%.
Shaw said the protesters are not swayed.
“We have stated that we will occupy the seat of government, right here on this lawn, until our demands are met or we are forcibly and violently removed from the property,” Shaw said.
“And if we are violently removed, we’ll be back the next day,” she said.
City Councilmen Brandon Ellington and Eric Bunch spoke in support of police reform and vowed to help the protesters achieve their goals.
Bunch said he would push the council to take the necessary action to “completely re-imagine what public safety means.”
He said the police department’s $272 million budget this year is more than the combined budgets of several other departments, including parks, health, neighborhood services, indigent medical care and housing and homeless services. He noted that as the city continues to steer more money to police, violent crime and homicides keep increasing.
“We literally do not have the money to support the vital health care and quality of life issues precisely because we have resigned ourselves to a reality in which law enforcement is the only tool to address these complex issues,” he said.