Lawrence and Douglas County

Lawrence and Douglas county

Some residents call on Lawrence officials to address ‘appropriate’ protocol for protests after ‘Defend the Flag’ event

Protesters carrying American flags and a hybrid Confederate flag, along with counter-protesters carrying rainbow flags, stand near the north entrance to South Park, south of the Douglas County Courthouse, Saturday afternoon, Feb. 3, 2018.

Protesters carrying American flags and a hybrid Confederate flag, along with counter-protesters carrying rainbow flags, stand near the north entrance to South Park, south of the Douglas County Courthouse, Saturday afternoon, Feb. 3, 2018.

February 7, 2018


A downtown protest that included some marchers with Confederate flags has some residents raising questions at City Hall.

At its meeting Tuesday, the Lawrence City Commission heard about 30 minutes of public comment regarding a protest in downtown Lawrence Saturday. The protest by a "Defend the Flag" group was reportedly in response to a "Drag the Flag" protest that had allegedly been scheduled for Saturday but that did not occur.

East Lawrence resident Dave Loewenstein told the commission that the intimidating tactics of some of the protesters reflected the racist and xenophobic ideology that is trying to reassert itself throughout the country. He urged the commission to address and condemn the events.

“Ignoring them or hoping they were an aberration would serve to normalize this behavior and is not an option if we believe in the fundamental well being of our community,” Loewenstein said.

About a dozen people spoke to the commission about Saturday’s events. Some LGBTQ residents and residents of color told the commission they felt scared, unwelcome or threatened by the protesters. Several residents asked the city to make a statement against what they described as intimidating and hostile behavior, and they sought further discussion of what the city’s protocol or permitting process is for protests.

If the city were to enact any policy, it would have to be content-neutral, as governments by law cannot limit free speech.

Lawrence police reported Saturday that one arrest was made and one citation issued in what they described as a "largely non-violent" protest. Several of those who spoke also referred to a video circulating on social media, in which some of the protesters yelled at a resident with an anarchist flag and one protester broke the flag’s pole.

Bita Porubsky told the commission that preventive action is better than reaction, and she’d like to see the city, the police and the community discuss what the city does in such situations.

“I definitely think that everyone has the right to free speech, and that includes people who don’t hold the same ideals or positions as me,” said Porubsky, noting that some people likely didn’t agree with the recent women’s march in Lawrence.

“But I do think the Confederate flag, the intimidation, the violence, even though it wasn’t physical, was still very present,” she added. “So I just want the community leaders to be able to address the community and let us know that that type of behavior is not appropriate here in Lawrence, and if you do want to protest here, this is how you do it.”

As is protocol, the commission did not discuss the topic, but Mayor Stuart Boley did thank all those who spoke for their comments. The commission referred the issue to city staff for review and asked that the topic be brought back for discussion at a future meeting.

Porter Arneill, the city’s director of communications and creative resources, told the Journal-World Wednesday that marches generally do not require any official city oversight. Specifically, Arneill said the city does not require any permits for marches but that an event may involve a reservation for a city park shelter or traffic-related request. He said public areas such as parks and sidewalks are open to anyone and that the city’s only involvement with Saturday’s march was the police presence.

A date is not set for when the City Commission will discuss the topic, but City Manager Tom Markus told commissioners it could be added to an agenda in the next few weeks.


Dorothy Hoyt-Reed 3 months, 2 weeks ago

Did they have a reservation to use South Park? I've talked to some of the people in the defend the flag group who said they weren't trying to be intimidating. But some trouble makers came along with confederate flags and were the ones in the video.

I asked one guy if he thought BLM was responsible for riots when they march, and he saiid yes. Then I pointed out to him the BLM website and interviews with leaders where they call for peaceful demonstration. But then along comes some trouble makers, who see it as an opportunity to either steal or cause violence. I'm not sure if he understood the connection. They don't realize their group may not have wanted to be intimidating, but some in their group have ruined it for them.

And finally, it's looking more and more that the post about dragging a flag was not even made by someone in Lawrence, or it was made by someone who was trying to stir up trouble, and these people took the bait. Just because it's on the internet, doesn't mean it's true.

If you really want to show respect for the flag, why not form a color guard and apply for one of the parades. In Lawerence parades there are quite often more than one color guard marching. And none of them are dragging the flags, accidentally or on purpose.

Bob Smith 3 months, 2 weeks ago

You do not have a Constitutional right to never be offended.

Armen Kurdian 3 months, 2 weeks ago

No, but you can't assault or be intimidated either...REGARDLESS of the political viewpoint. That's the only thing I don't want to get lost here. The KKK has just as much right to protest as BLM, the Tea Party, Gun Rights, LGB, etc. I would be hugely in favor of a mechanism by which the trouble-makers, committers of violence are removed from the equation quickly, though.

Steve Hicks 3 months, 2 weeks ago

That was the purpose of the police presence, wasn't it ?

And in Kansas, there's always the likelihood that "good guys" exercising their gun "rights" are present, and ready to take out the "bad guys," right ? The "good guy" protesters ready to take out the "bad guy" counter-protestors, and "good guy" counter-protestors ready to take out "bad guy" protestors. Police presumably armed and ready to respond to gunfire of whatever ideology.

So we're all extremely safe at any demonstration on Lawrence' downtown streets.

Ever see the film where they throw a single ping-pong ball into a roomful of ping-pong balls poised on mouse-traps that are set to go off ?

Steve Hicks 3 months, 2 weeks ago

It's always seemed to me that chip-on-the-shoulder displays of the flag, whatever variety of opinion they are supposed to represent, carry the strong subtext "I'm a BETTER AMERICAN than you !"

In an American setting, among thousands of other Americans, how could they not ?

Bill McGovern 3 months, 2 weeks ago

Sorry to break the news but they came a week too late. There was a guy dragging a flag on Mass the Sunday before. At one point an officer stopped and said something to him, but he wasn't breaking the law so nothing happened.

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