Government & Politics

Under pressure, Kansas relaxes statehouse protest rules for upcoming veto session

Several protestors unfurled banners in the rotunda of the Kansas capitol Wednesday calling for a vote on medicaid expansion by the senate. The banners had the names of Republican leaders on them and inferred that they had blood on their hands.
Several protestors unfurled banners in the rotunda of the Kansas capitol Wednesday calling for a vote on medicaid expansion by the senate. The banners had the names of Republican leaders on them and inferred that they had blood on their hands.

After drawing criticism for the removal of three college students last month, officials in the Kansas Statehouse have agreed to allow small, non-disruptive protests during next month’s legislative veto session.

Lauren Bonds, interim executive director of the Kansas chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, said the organization had filed for a temporary restraining order against what it believes to be burdensome protest policies in the Capitol. Bonds called the order a kind of “fast-track” option to allow its clients and others to demonstrate during the upcoming veto session.

The two parties filed to withdraw the temporary restraining order after an agreement was reached out of court.

“This is a temporary agreement for the purposes of the upcoming legislative action we’re expecting from the statehouse,” Bonds said.

The agreement is an understanding that non-disruptive parties of five or less people will be permitted to demonstrate in the public areas of the Statehouse, such as the hallways and rotunda. However, larger parties that want to organize in advance will still be expected to file the usual $20 application 10 days prior to their demonstration.

The agreement also permits personal, hand-held signage, Bonds said.

Earlier this month, the ACLU announced it had filed a lawsuit on behalf of three Kansas State University students who were removed from the Capitol in March for unfurling four “bloody” banners calling for Medicaid expansion.

The banners and the students, Jonathan Coleman, Nate Faflick and Katie Sullivan, were quickly removed. Capitol security, citing building policy, initially banned the students for one year, but that ban was lifted the next day. In the original suit, the ACLU argued that the policies were prior restraints on assembly and speech, and asked the court to prohibit them.

The lawsuit named Secretary of Administration Duane Goossen, Director of Administrative Services Tom Day, and the Superintendent of Kansas Highway Patrol as defendants. Kansas Highway Patrol oversees security for the Kansas Statehouse.

Although Bonds said the latest agreement is promising, defendants have not firmly agreed to lift the same policies for future legislative sessions.

“Those are still very much issues that are in contention at this point and ones that we still are going to litigate over,” she said. “This is just kind of a temporary fix for the most upcoming session.”

A spokesperson for Kansas Highway Patrol did not return requests for comment. Day declined to comment while legal matters are ongoing. A representative from the Attorney General’s office, which is representing the Department of Administration, referred the Star to the latest court filing regarding the agreement.

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