Ron Meyer says he is a teacher. He, in fact, is with a group of school teachers. He adds, with emphasis, they are, “PUBLIC school teachers.”
Meyer’s grandfather was from Rosedale. Now, Meyer, standing on the corner of 45th and Oak streets in Kansas City, Missouri, at Theis Park, which is the south lawn of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, is holding one corner of a big vinyl sign that reads “unity in diversity” with a rainbow of colors as the background.
“We should go,” he told his friends earlier, after hearing about the “March 4th for a Free Press” on Saturday.
This is their first protest together as a group, he says. Meyer says teachers are busy, but they intend to participate in more.
“Anytime we are free,” he says.
The teachers spent some money on this sign and another that reads “Love Trumps Hate” with stars in rainbow colors. Meyer says teachers reuse things all the time and will take these to future protests.
Being teachers, he continues, they are liberal-minded, and he and his husband are gay, and they were concerned about the Betsy DeVos confirmation, and were shocked by the barring of the press from the White House.
“I don’t care if it’s a Democrat or Republican, that’s frightening,” says Meyer. The press, he says, keeps everyone informed and the White House transparent.
“It’s very important,” he says. “We can’t have the press bullied by this administration. They need to be free and safe to report.”
Meyer says protests are important.
“We need to let people know we are going to work to make sure we are not going to be complacent and let things happen,” he says, from the Muslim ban to transgender issues. “We cannot put our heads in the sand.”
Meyer says a lot of cars driving by honk in support. A few people make what he calls “unkind gestures.”
Meyer challenges everyone in the metro area to not be afraid to exercise what he calls their “civic duties.”
“I challenge everyone to let their voices be heard no matter what side of the fence we’re on,” he says.
A small group of passersby ask if they can take a photo of the banner. Of course, says Meyer. At the same time, two men walk up and asked if they can kiss each other in front of the banner. Everyone says “yes” in unison and take more photos as the couple embraces.
Holding the other corner of the sign is Meyer’s husband, Jeff Curran. The couple has been together for 22 years. Curran says he has been watching the news and social medial related to the current administration.
“They are stripping rights from people!” he said.
This angered him. The Muslim ban was barring people from America–the melting pot, he said.
“I can’t believe they would stop people from coming in!” he said.
Curran, a banker, says when he heard about the march in support of the press, he said, “We’re going!”
This is his first protest, but he plans on participating in more. He won’t sit back, he says. And, Curran, a banker, says he is not hesitant and not afraid to be seen. He is out as a gay man, and he says the protests are no different.
“It’s time for us to come together, we have the same feelings, the same concerns,” says Curran. “I’m proud to be here. This is who I am. Passionate. It’s time for people to stand up. It’s time.”
A little ways down the sidewalk, Marge Steinhouse, of Blue Springs, Missouri, holds a sign that reads “Women’s Rights are Human Rights.”
“Freedom of the press,” she said, is the reason she showed up.
Steinhouse went to the Women’s Sister March on Washington in Kansas City, Missouri. And, she attended the President’s Day Protest at the J.C. Nichols Memorial Fountain recently.
She brought her grandchildren with her to some of them.
“So they know they have to participate in democracy,” she says.
Her sister, Jean Cummings, of Leawood, Kansas, stands nearby with the same sign as her sister. She is wearing buttons that read “No Ban No Wall” and “Nasty Women Get S— Done” and her shirt reads “Nasty Woman.” The sisters recall their parents took them with them when working the election polls in the 1980s.
Cummings is married to a Muslim. She says he is nice and not a terrorist.
“I’ve vetted him,” she laughs.
They had a restaurant, and it burned down, she explains. So now, they have a business making hummus that was called “Mohammad’s Hummus,” but they changed the name to “Mo’s Hummus.” She was for changing the name, while her kids thought she was “insane.”
Said Cummings, “I know what hate looks like.”
This is not the first protest for Cummings. She traveled by bus to Washington, D.C., for the Women’s March in January.
She says her sign, “I’m With Her,” was left behind.
“I left it outside the Trump hotel,” says Cummings.
Rebecca Tombaugh is a reporting artist in the Greater Kansas City area.
Story, art and photos copyright 2017 by Rebecca Tombaugh