The demonstration was the campaign’s fifth in a series of six protests it has scheduled at the Capitol this spring and the second in a row where state police denied group access.
And as of Monday evening it was continuing – about two dozen demonstrators staged a sit in in the small area just inside the Capitol’s front door just in front of the state police’s heavily-manned security checkpoint. It was unclear Monday evening how long the peaceful sit-in would last.
Josh Lawson, the spokesman for the state police, said the rule allowing only two members of the group inside at a time is new “protocol by our Facilities Security Branch as well as our Legislative Security Branch.”
He said that 17 members of the group came inside the Capitol after a May 21 demonstration outside and remained in the building all night.
That evening the 17 declined when asked to leave, Lawson said, and committed the crime of criminal trespassing. But Lawson said their action was peaceful and none of the 17, who left the next morning, was arrested.
“Based on those actions and … based upon their statements and intentions to be arrested and to commit criminal acts once inside of the Capitol, we enacted that protocol,” Lawson said.
Lawson also said the group has never applied for, or received, a permit to demonstrate inside the Capitol.
But Rev. Megan Huston, senior minister of at First Cristian Church in Bowling Green, said before Monday’s demonstration, said, “We believe it is our Constitutional right for us to speak out to our elected officials. And this is our house. We pay taxes…We believe that it is our Constitutional right that we should have access to our house. We don’t need a permit, the Constitution is our permit.”
The confrontations at the Capitol doors are likely to continue.
On Wednesday, the Rev. William Barber, co-chairman of the national Poor People’s campaign who spoke at the Frankfort demonstration last week, plans to return to Kentucky’s Capitol on Wednesday for a news conference.
The Poor People’s Campaign agenda calls for “nonviolent direct action” for new laws and policies to help the poor, end racism and protect the environment. The national Poor People’s Campaign is also staging demonstrations at more than 30 state capitols this spring.
Monday’s demonstration was focused on pushing for laws that require “living wages,” rights of all workers to join unions, more funding for anti-poverty programs and free tuition at public colleges.
Speakers on Monday said that more than 4,000 Kentuckians are homeless, that a worker making Kentucky’s minimum wage would need to work 77 hours a week to afford a two-bedroom apartment, and that about half of Kentucky’s workforce makes less than $15 per hour.
Monday evening demonstrators outside tried to deliver pizzas to those sitting just inside the Capitol’s front door but were prohibited from handing the pizzas inside the door.
Lawson said the Capitol was closed as of 4 p.m. and that the delivery was an “attempt to prolong the illegal trespass that is going on.” He said those sitting in the Capitol were free to leave if they got hungry.