Faith leaders gathered in Kansas City on Monday to protest white supremacy in law enforcement as the National Sheriffs’ Association held its annual conference downtown.
Clergy and community members spoke outside Grace and Holy Trinity Cathedral, across the street from the convention, which is being held from June 27-30 at the Kansas City Convention Center.
“The National Sheriffs’ Association is a racist institution that harbors white supremacist sheriffs from across the country by providing them with the tools and resources necessary to prey on vulnerable Black and Brown people like you and me,” said Yaquelin Valencia, a campaign manager with Faith in Action.
The National Sheriffs’ Association said conference attendees heard about jail programs that help incarcerated people obtain GEDs and vocational degrees. Sheriffs will also have discussions about reducing crime, keeping schools safe and reducing traffic fatalities, said National Sherrifs’ Association spokesman Pat Royal.
“At the conference, sheriffs will collaborate and discuss the pressing issues facing law enforcement and exchange solutions to meet those challenges to keep their communities safe,” Royal said.
Leaders said sheriffs across the country rely on racial profiling to make arrests, are not held accountable for jail deaths and separate families by cooperating with ICE.
“We have a choice, and we choose to believe that each and every person deserves to return home to their families and their loved ones,” said the Rev. Nicole Barnes, a program director for Faith in Action from Indianapolis. “We choose to wield libertarian power by standing in solidarity to confront these evil and racist institutions that don’t protect nor serve our people.”
Ana Garcia, a leader from Kansas City with Missouri Faith Voices, said her brother was racially profiled by a local sheriff, and police presence was always heightened in her community.
“Our families deserve to live free of fear,” Garcia said.
Amelia Herrera, who was a nurse in Baton Rouge before starting her work with Communities for Sheriff Accountability, said that after suffering from mental health issues after the death of her husband and mother, she was incarcerated rather than given treatment.
“Even when you’re free, you’re not really free,” Herrera said.
Leaders issued four demands, calling for:
The National Sheriffs’ Association to stop harboring white supremacist and anti-democracy members
The National Sheriffs’ Association to stop working with ICE and anti-immigration organizations
Accountability for deaths in facilities managed by sheriffs
Corporations to stop sponsoring events held by the National Sheriffs’ Association
The event ended with attendees dropping their own demands in a wooden chest decorated by members of the organizations that will be delivered to the National Sheriffs’ Association.
“We need to vote and use our people power to get these bad actors out of office,” Herrera said. “It’s a matter of life and death.”