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Battle Over Kentucky Capitol Access Could Wind Up In Court

Reverend William J. Barber prays with protesters after the group was denied access into the state capitol building during a protest organized by Kentucky Poor People's Campaign in Frankfort, Ky., Monday, June 4, 2018.
Reverend William J. Barber prays with protesters after the group was denied access into the state capitol building during a protest organized by Kentucky Poor People's Campaign in Frankfort, Ky., Monday, June 4, 2018.

Tensions are rising between a national anti-poverty campaign and Kentucky state leaders over a decision to deny the organization group access to the Capitol building. Now, one Lexington Democratic lawmaker warns it could take a judge to resolve the matter.

Demonstrators with the Poor People’s Campaign, a nonprofit focused on wide-ranging social issues from healthcare to wages, were again turned away at the Capitol Monday. Protesters and guards clashed over a new rule limiting access to the government building which hosted thousands during teacher pension protests as recently as April.

"The right to freedom of speech... you don't have to get permission," Rev. William Barber said Wednesday. "You want to ask somebody 'Can you freely speak inside the people's house?' That's a bunch of smoke screen that they're giving to the media to try to suggest that these people haven't done anything right."

While Lexington Democratic Rep. George Brown says the move could spark a lawsuit against Gov. Matt Bevin’s administration, the Lexington Herald-Leader reports the lawmaker did receive a three-page letter from Kentucky State Police Commissioner Richard Sanders laying out a rationale for the controversial rule that's drawn national scrutiny.

Sanders said the decision was based on prior unlawful acts by the protesters, including blocking traffic, drawing chalk images on the porch of the Governor’s Mansion, and tampering with property inside the Capitol. KSP's Criminal Intelligence Branch also supplied information regarding the protesters' "intent to commit criminal acts by refusing to leave the Capitol once inside," according to the letter.

Brown has said singling out one group is “arbitrary and capricious.” He and Louisville Democrat Attica Scott are seeking clarity on the rule-making process surrounding Capitol access and its legality from Attorney General Andy Beshear.

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