KANSAS CITY, MO (KCTV) – Some incredible images from Kansas City’s protests are going viral, including many that have been taken by a local event photographer.
These photos capture a moment in time and are powerful, especially one showing a man holding up a protest sign being sprayed directly in the face by an officer in crowd control gear as two more officers flank him.
Some online are saying the man got what he deserved while others are critical of police.
Photographer Frank Kuhl normally photographs nightlife and concerts, but this image from a Plaza protest is his now his most famous.
“It’s so hard to believe an image like that is even possible today. I mean you see a lot of things like that from older protests the civil rights marches and things like that. You wouldn’t assume someone would get sprayed point blank like that,” Kuhl told KCTV5 News. “It shows someone who stood up for what they believed in and just got smacked down.”
Kuhl has been documenting and watching the protests, evaluating the actions of both sides.
“To me it seemed like a lot of people would run up and throw something at the police, disappear and then police would react by spraying in the direction of that bottle or whatever what was thrown came from,” he explained. “The gentlemen in the photo did not deserve to be sprayed in the face like that nor did all the people standing behind him who got maced right after that.”
Kansas City police have been questioned about photos and videos floating around on social media, and at times the level of frustration with officers and department officials is apparent.
When pressed about images like Kuhl’s and other videos posted to social media, KCPD Chief Rick Smith noted that he and his officers had “been busy” with the weekend protests, where more than 150 arrests were made.
In a statement sent to KCTV5 News, a KCPD spokesperson directly explained what was seen in this photo.
This was one of them. The protester was arrested for municipal/city protest related charges, he did not resist his arrest, however the associated response from the crowd was aggressive and violent by throwing various objects and physically interfering with the arrest, which is also a crime for which they were not arrested for at that time, that is what led to the officers response with pepper spray.
Even for a veteran photographer like Kuhl, these images are shocking.
“I never expected to see or experience what I experienced last weekend at all,” he said.
Kuhl’s photo has been called fake, but he insists it’s not.
“Hard to believe anything, but this I saw and it’s very real,” he told KCTV5 News. “Half of the people think fake. Half think the guy deserved it the other half says he’s an innocent bystander.”
The photographer has recently taken a stand about the images he’s captured of protesters and police. He refuses to blur any faces or badge numbers.
“If I blur their faces, should then I go back and blur all the officers badge numbers? To me, (it) doesn’t seem fair to choose a side like that where you hide what one side is doing and you glorify the other or vice versa, so I wanted to make sure everyone was held responsible for what they were doing that day,” he said of his decision.
There is a shot Kuhl says he’s sad he missed. There was a moment of police kneeling with protesters. The crowd was excited as he tried to get in position, but the shot was blurry.
There was another real moment which has happened with protesters, though, when Chief Smith and Mayor Quinton Lucas both met and knelt with them on Monday night.