There has been significant media coverage in recent weeks surrounding protests by the Poor People’s Campaign at the Kentucky State Capitol in Frankfort. Some sources have suggested that this group is somehow being arbitrarily “shut out” of access to the building because of the content of their message. This is simply not true.
While the Kentucky State Police works daily to safeguard the Commonwealth’s facilities, employees and members of the general public, we do so in full view of every citizens’ Constitutional rights, including those guaranteed by the First Amendment.
The KSP protocol of allowing two PPC protestors at a time to enter the Capitol building was implemented based upon general crowd control training, coupled with law enforcement officers’ specific experiences with this particular group.
First, it is important to understand that any group planning to formally assemble at the Capitol must secure a proper permit. On at least three occasions this spring, PPC rally organizers requested (and were issued) permits to congregate outside of the building. However, on each of these occasions, they then took it upon themselves to attempt to move their rally inside without the proper permit.
Secondly, the KSP protocol has been implemented in direct response to previous actions by this protest group. These incidents include:
In other words, KSP has gone out of our way to be accommodating to Poor People’s Campaign protesters and allow them to exercise their right to protest, despite the fact this group has violated regulations each time they have convened — with some individuals even stating a desire to be arrested.
A key point to bear in mind is that there are repercussions to all Kentuckians when groups engage in activities such as these. For example, KSP had to deploy additional security when Poor People’s Campaign protesters unlawfully spent the night of May 21 at the Capitol, forcing them to pull troopers from highway patrols in surrounding communities.
KSP works with dozens of groups each year to ensure they are able to safely and securely assemble at our State Capitol and exercise their First Amendment rights. However, these groups must exercise their rights in good faith, abiding by established facility rules—rules that are in place for the protection of state workers, the preservation of historic facilities, and the safety of the general public (including protesters).
Rick Sanders is commissioner of the Kentucky State Police.
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