Protesters denied access to Kentucky Capitol leave a Bible for Bevin
by Tom Loftus, Louisville Courier Journal –
The Poor People’s campaign, an anti-poverty group, was once more denied access to the Kentucky State Capitol this week. Tom Loftus, Louisville Courier Journal
FRANKFORT – Rev. William Barber, national co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign, returned to Kentucky on Wednesday to denounce a new policy that allows only two members of the group to be inside the Capitol at a time.
Barber and other leaders of the anti-poverty movement said legal options for challenging the policy were being explored and that the demonstrators will ultimately prevail.
“We’re not going in two-by-two. We’re going in all together,” he told about 60 demonstrators at the foot of the Capitol’s steps. “And when we all go in together, what a day of rejoicing, what a day of justice it’s going to be right here in Kentucky.”
But for the third time in 10 days, state police enforced the policy. Demonstrators left a Bible at the Capitol door for Gov. Matt Bevin, knelt for a prayer and dispersed.
They plan to return Monday.
Kentucky State Police Commissioner Rick Sanders has said the policy is not intended to infringe on the group’s right of free expression. He said it is not a response to what the demonstrators have been saying, but rather what some of them have been doing that threatened public safety and building security.
In a letter last week to two state representatives, Sanders said that after three prior demonstrations this spring, members of the group committed illegal offenses for which they could have been arrested but were not. Once, he said, they got to a restricted area surrounding the governor’s mansion and drew images with chalk on the porch, another time he said a large group of them blocked traffic on the road between the Capitol and Capitol Annex.
A third time he said 17 demonstrators who had entered the Capitol “refused to leave, and tampered with property inside the historic building.” Rather than arrest the demonstrators, Sanders said, the state police brought in additional officers to keep an eye on them until they left without incident the following morning.
Sanders said in the letter that the policy was implemented because of “the group’s willingness to disregard the law and its desire to compel authorities to arrest individuals within the group,” Sanders wrote. “… KSP has made all reasonable efforts to avoid arrest of peaceful, although illegal, actions made by the protesters and still make accommodations for the exercising of their rights guaranteed by the First Amendment.”
But Barber said Wednesday that the constitutional guarantee of freedom of expression will prevail over the policy, which he blamed on Bevin.
Directing remarks to the governor, Barber said, “When you put your hand on that Bible and swore to uphold the Constitution, governor, I hate to tell you but you told a lie. You’re not doing what you said you were going to do.”
The Kentucky Poor People’s Campaign plans to hold the last in a series of demonstrations this spring at the Capitol on Monday afternoon. The purpose, according to a news release, is “to bring awareness to the profound and urgent issues affecting the people of Kentucky due to poverty, systemic racism, war and destruction of our environment.”
Tom Loftus: firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @TomLoftus_CJ. Support strong local journalism by subscribing today: www.courier-journal.com/toml.
The group returned to Frankfort, but were told they could enter the Capitol only 2 at a time. Alton Strupp, Louisville Courier Journal