FRANKFORT, Ky. (WDRB) – A protest leads to problems at the front door of the Kentucky State Capitol.

State Police say they are limiting access to the Capitol building by an organization called the Poor People’s Campaign for security reasons. But powerful voices on both sides of the aisle say police may have gone too far.

Capitol security stopped several hundred members of the group from bringing their anti-poverty, social justice message, en masse into the state Capitol on Monday.

To chants of “Let us in,” the protesters cried foul as police allowed them to enter the building just two at a time.

“We are claiming our space to be here, and bring those grievances,” Pam McMichael, of Louisville, said. “If that interferes with the way they work, and the restrictive ways they have set up to discourage active people from getting involved, then that's on them.”

State Police Commissioner Rick Sanders declined an on camera interview to explain the policy. But he did send a letter to two Democratic lawmakers who questioned the move.

In the letter, Sanders said the restrictions are justified because “the group had not obtained a permit to protest inside the Capitol."

He also said the protesters committed "repeated actions of criminal trespass and purposeful indifference to the rules." Sanders said that included blocking streets, and refusing to leave the building at closing time.

Sanders added KSP also learned that protesters from the Poor People's Campaign came to the Capitol with the intent to be arrested - an accusation organizers denied.

“Our intentions were never to get arrested. If arrest came with us lifting our voice, and lifting 140 million people living in poverty, if that occurred, then so be it,” said Tayna Fogle of Lexington.

Democratic Attorney General Andy Beshear is preparing to issue a legal opinion on the state police policy, but made his personal opinion clear to WDRB News.

“Surely there are better ways to resolve any issues with a particular group than to bar them from the seat of government,” Beshear said.

The Republican Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee said he has seen only media reports of the incident, but agreed there needs to be a high bar for limiting access to the Capitol.

“They're trying to maintain security, and I appreciate that. I just don't think you can restrict groups short of there being some showing that they're a security risk,” said Westerfield.

Despite the Capitol conflict, so far, police have made no arrests.

In the letter, Sanders said the policy does not apply to those who “plan to make their voices heard at the Capitol and then leave after following all laws and regulations.”

In a news release, Lexington Democratic Rep. George Brown said he and others plan to join the Poor People's Campaign on the Capitol steps on Wednesday. 


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