- Associated Press - Thursday, June 28, 2018

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Kansas lawmakers are demanding answers after protesters were locked out of the Statehouse last week.

Top leaders from both parties directed the director of Legislative Administrative Services to prepare a report during a meeting Wednesday, the Lawrence Journal-World . The members of the Legislative Coordinating Council said they want to know when security officials can lock people out of the Statehouse and who has the authority to make such a decision.

Issues arose June 18 when officers locked the public entrance doors to the Visitors Center, preventing protesters with the Poor People’s Campaign and others from entering. Protesters with the group had been arrested for refusing to disperse during previous demonstrations at the Statehouse.

Last week’s demonstration began with a rally on the south lawn of the Statehouse. Following that, the protesters marched around to the north side of the building, toward the public entrance, where they were met by law enforcement officers who said the group did not have a permit to stage an event in the building and they would not be allowed to enter.

About a dozen people went around the officers and entered the building anyway. But when they got inside, they found that a second set of doors leading to security stations and the Visitors Center had been locked. Eleven people were arrested for refusing to leave. Meanwhile, other visitors who were not part of the protest were also delayed in being allowed in.

“I think we should have a policy or some sort of direction on why that happens,” said House Minority Leader Jim Ward, of Wichita.

Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, of Topeka, said he was in the building that day and didn’t know the doors had been locked until he tried to exit and encountered a woman knocking on the door, trying to get in.

“I don’t know if that woman was part of the Poor People’s Campaign or not,” Hensley said. “She might have just been a tourist who wanted inside the Capitol building, so I think it’d be very appropriate for us to take a look at what the policy is and really understand when the Capitol Police feel it’s necessary to lock up the Visitors Center.”

House Speaker Ron Ryckman Jr., R-Olathe, said he wanted answers to those questions as well.

“It’s obviously the people’s house. We also need to see the policies and procedures that also protect the people who are in the people’s house,” Ryckman said.


Information from: Lawrence (Kan.) Journal-World, http://www.ljworld.com

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