Wichita activists respond to backlash from Black Lives Matter chapter in DC

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Community activists in Wichita are catching heat from the Black Lives Matter chapter in Washington, D.C. for the First Steps Cookout, which replaced a protest on Sunday.

"This wasn't just a fanfare event. This was definitely something that we wanted to bring to everybody's attention. Now that we have their attention, we want to educate them on how to do those things. We want to be able to get everybody to vote," said AJ Bohannon, community activist.

Bohannon and Djuan Wash were among the community activists who helped to co-organize the First Steps Cookout with the Wichita Police Department.

"I think it was a right first step for our community to take, for the opportunity for the chief to come out and make public commitments. We've never had a Chief of Police that has come out and has been as accessible and as available as Chief Ramsay has been, so I think it was something that was good for our community," said Wash.

But on Wednesday, the Black Lives Matter DC group shared a viral video of the cookout in Wichita and tweeted, "THIS IS NOT AN OFFICIAL #BlackLivesMatter CHAPTER! THIS IS NOT IN LINE WITH OUR PRINCIPLES. @Blklivesmatter."

Tweets from the group on Friday explained further:

"Let us be clear. Our statement about BLM BBQ's with police was a direct response to the tons of people and orgs who were upset by the event." 

"First, we clarified it wasn't a BLM Network event. Second, we assured folks our principles were still focused on dismantling the system."

"We must resist the temptation to accept mere appearances of change that are not intentional about dismantling actual systems of oppression."

Two of the community activists in Wichita responded to the tweets.

"Of course we're in line with Black Lives Matter principles, because black lives matter," said Wash. "We want people to stop killing us and then getting away with it. We want accountability for folks' actions."

"I just want to put it on record that we are not affiliated with Black Lives Matter. We do share some of the same issues and some of the same concerns, but we are not officially affiliated with them," said Bohannon.

Wash and Bohnnaon said the next steps are to encourage people to vote and hold leaders accountable for promises that they have made to the community, such as an independent prosecutor to review officer involved shootings. 

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