Views from Kansas: Statehouse system worked

Editor’s Note: Views from Kansas is a regular feature that highlights editorials and other viewpoints from across the state.

Three Kansas State University students made headlines recently when they were briefly banned from the state Capitol for a year. Their crime: They unfurled banners with a political message inside the Capitol.

We need to first credit Lt. Eric Hatcher, who oversees the police in the Statehouse, for overturning the ban. He said it was just too long, and we agree.

Citizens have a right to express political opinions, and the government needs to be extremely careful about punishing people for doing that.

The issue here is that there is a rule against the display of banners inside the Statehouse. The students — Jonathan Cole, Katie Sullivan and Nate Faflick — unfurled four of them, naming legislative leaders, encouraging them to “expand Medicaid.” The banners, 24 feet high and 10 feet wide, hung inside the Capitol rotunda.

Thea Perry, a rural Leavenworth County resident, organized the event and was joined by the Rev. Sarah Oglesby-Dunegan, of Topeka, and the K-State students. Perry told the Topeka Capital-Journal that the students’ right to protest was being denied by an overzealous police officer.

Our strong guess is that they knew they were violating the rules. If they didn’t, then they’re just naive. But by first unfurling the banners and then getting punished, they accomplished their goal of raising the profile of the issue. It was, in essence, civil disobedience.

We think a ban on banners inside the Statehouse is a reasonable policy — without it, the rotunda would become a glorified college-campus bulletin board. We also have no problem with giving the police discretion about how to handle violations. In this particular case, the system worked as it should.

— Originally published in The Manhattan Mercury


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