Government & Politics

K-State students barred from statehouse for ‘bloody’ Medicaid banners are reinstated

Three Kansas State University students, barred from the Kansas Statehouse for a year Wednesday after unfurling “bloody” banners targeting Republican leaders for opposing Medicaid expansion, had their penalty abruptly lifted by capitol officials Thursday.

Despite the reversal, the students said they are in contact with the ACLU of Kansas to discuss a First Amendment violation.

The banners, which were up for only a few minutes before capitol security removed them, displayed the names of Senate President Susan Wagle, R-Wichita, Senate Majority Leader Jim Denning, R-Overland Park, House Speaker Ron Ryckman, R-Olathe, and Rep. Dan Hawkins, R-Wichita.

The signs read “blood on their hands,” and were marked with red “bloody” handprints and #ExpandMedicaid.

“We wanted to make our statement in a very visual way and call attention to the leadership because we don’t believe the priorities are being heard and being met in a way that’s understood,” Nate Faflick, one of the protestors, said.

Faflick, along with fellow students Jonathan Coleman and Katie Sullivan, were escorted out of the building by the Kansas Highway Patrol, which operates security in the Statehouse, and banned from the premises for one year.

Faflick said they were not given any citation or notice.

Tom Day, director of Legislative Administrative Services in the statehouse, said according to building policy, “no banners, signs, exhibits or any other materials will be taped, tacked, nailed, hung or otherwise placed in any manner within the Capitol Complex.”

Punishment for violating building policy is up to Highway Patrol officers, Day said.

On Wednesday, Hawkins issued a statement calling the protestors “extremists.”

“Supporters of socialist health care don’t care about the facts. They want to push towards a Bernie Sanders-endorsed, socialist health care plan where the government tells you exactly what you get,” the statement said.

“We will not let extremists rule the day,” Hawkins added. “That is not the Kansas way.”

Lara Korte helps cover Kansas politics for the Kansas City Star. She is a senior at the University of Kansas majoring in journalism and political science.