Archive for Monday, September 11, 2017

Kansas City librarian who tried to stop patron’s arrest acquitted

September 11, 2017

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— A Kansas City librarian who was arrested while trying to stop the arrest of a library patron during a public forum has been acquitted on all charges.

Steve Woolfolk, the Kansas City Library's director of programming and marketing, was arrested in May 2016 as private security guards and off-duty police officers arrested Jeremy Rothe-Kushel, a library patron from Lawrence. The incident occurred during the question-and-answer segment of a talk by Middle East expert and diplomat Dennis Ross.

Rothe-Kushel was asking Ross several challenging questions when he was arrested, The Kansas City Star reported . A video of the event shows Rothe-Kushel asking: "When are we going to stand up and be ethical Jews and Americans?" He was standing at the microphone and speaking quietly when a guard grabbed him and he shouted, "Get your hands off of me right now!"

When Woolfolk tried to intervene, both he and Rothe-Kushel were arrested. City prosecutors later dropped charges of trespassing and resisting arrest against Rothe-Kushel.

Kansas City Municipal Judge Joseph H. Locascio acquitted Woolfolk on Friday on all three counts he faced, remarking: "It was a public event."

R. Crosby Kemper III, executive director of the library, publicly protested the arrests, saying they violated free speech rights and amounted to prosecutorial misconduct.

"I'm elated. I could not be happier," Woolfolk said afterward. "Free speech is a fundamental tenet of the library system."

Since the arrests, the American Library Association has given the Kansas City library the Paul Howard Award for Courage and Woolfolk received the Lemony Snicket Prize for Noble Librarians Faced with Adversity.

The arrests occurred as Ross spoke at the inaugural Truman and Israel Lecture, established by the Truman Library Institute and the Jewish Community Foundation of Greater Kansas City.

Security isn't usually hired at such events, but the Jewish Community Foundation asked to hire private and off-duty police security for Ross. Library officials agreed on the condition that no one be removed from the audience without the library's permission.

"The good news is, justice was done," Kemper said after the trial. "It was always ridiculous."

Comments

Bill Turner 1 month, 1 week ago

Huh? I'm confused as to why anyone was arrested here at all. If I'm reading this correctly, a guy from the public asked questions at a public event and got arrested for taking a turn at the microphone. Then the librarian got arrested for trying to stop it. That's extremely troubling. Seems that the security officers should be held accountable for what is being portrayed here as gave misdeed.

Calvin Anders 1 month, 1 week ago

The fact that the DA refused to drop these charges long ago and apologize to Mr. Woolfolk is indicative of how broken and corrupt our justice system is right now. The fact that the police and the city victimized these people is shameful. I do hope this abuse is not forgotten.

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