February 18, 2014
A Prairie Village woman believes her daughter and her friend were targeted as the “token white kids” cited for violating the curfew at the Country Club Plaza over the weekend.
Deena Blake believes Kansas City Police Department officers and security for Highwoods, the owner of the Plaza, racially profiled the two 15-year-olds. She believes they unfairly enforced the city’s curfew law.
“All of them were black except my daughter and her friend,” Blake said. “I feel like my kids are the token white kids and it was important to them. And I believe there was an agenda and we fell into that agenda trap.”
Some Kansas City Council members and community leaders in recent weeks have criticized the Kansas City Police Department for failing to cite whites for violating the curfew law.
The Kansas City Police Department did not respond to a request for a reaction to Blake’s comments. The department did issue a statement Sunday describing the problems Saturday night.
The officers issued seven curfew violations Saturday night. Kansas City police Capt. Tye Grant said a fight broke outside the Plaza’s movie theater and “the youth began throwing large firecrackers onside” on the street and sidewalk.
“Out of fear and due to the size of the fire crackers, this caused people to run from the area which resulted in some people’s property being damaged,” Grant said in an e-mail. “Some of the juveniles that were detained were also part of 37 that were given warnings last weekend. Some illegal fireworks were also recovered. Officers were also told by some of the parents of the children who had already been detained that their children’s movie was not even over yet.”
Highwoods Properties did not respond to Blake’s specific concerns.
“Highwoods Properties Inc. takes the safety of all Country Club Plaza customers very seriously. We are working along with KCMO Police Department, the Mayor and Plaza security to control these types of situations,” according to a statement from the property management company.
Blake’s daughter and her friend had gone to the Cinemark theater on the Plaza to watch a viewing of Monsters University that Blake said began about 7:30 p.m. She said once the movie was over, she asked her daughter to text her, which she did. She said the two girls left the theater looking for her circling car.
Blake said it was “chaotic, a zoo,” and she had trouble finding her daughter. She said she had told them to go back into the theater if they didn’t connect.
The girls and the woman were unable to make eye contact initially, so the girls went back inside the theater while Blake continued to circle the theater. As the girls were returning inside, Blake said a security guard held the door open and asked for their age. When they replied 15 years old, they were detained and taken to a nearby security office. Blake said she was issued a citation by Kansas City police rather than a warning.
She said about 20 children were detained.
Blake said she didn’t see any signs of the disturbance that the police department detailed. She said she called the theater manager that night and that he didn’t know of a disturbance.
“I didn’t see any disturbance outside when I was driving around. She (her daughter) was not aware of one inside,” Blake said.
The ordinance adopted by the Kansas City Council requires the department to report at least twice a year the number of arrests, the location and the race of those arrested. Blake said she believes that requirement led to her daughter and friend being cited because they would make the numbers not look so discriminatory.
KCTV5 asked the police department to define the portion of the ordinances defining “returning” and “entertainment,” but did not get a response. The ordinance says the curfew does not apply if the teen is returning home from a school activity, entertainment, recreational activity or dance.
As for Blake, this was the first time she had taken her daughter to the Plaza to see a movie. And she doesn’t plan to return.
“”They won’t be on the Plaza ever,” she said.
Blake plans to contact the American Civil Liberties Union to see if they can assist her.
Click here to see the entire city ordinance. The ordinance exempts teens: “When the person under 18 years of age is returning directly home from a school activity, entertainment, recreational activity or dance.”
Blake and her daughter have an August court date.