KY's AG: Policy restricting protesters inside Capitol Building violates state law
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Kentucky's attorney general ruled Monday that a policy barring protesters from demonstrating inside the State Capitol building violates state law.
The ruling came down from Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear's office on Monday.
The case stems from an incident on June 4, involving members of the Kentucky Poor People's Campaign -- a group of anti-poverty advocates that describes its purpose as, "advocating with and for people who are most affected by systemic racism, systemic poverty, the war economy and ecological devastation."
At issue was a new policy that only allowed two protesters at a time into the building. The Poor People's Campaign argued that the policy violated their right to enter and assemble peacefully. Kentucky State Police said the new two-person rule was implemented in response to past illegal activity by protesters at the Capitol, not as a result of the Poor People's Campaign and its mission.
But on Monday, Beshear's office ruled that the policy was a violation of Kentucky law, because it, "did not promulgate in an administrative regulation." The ruling also noted that the policy was never provided in writing to the attorney general's office.
The opinion says the authorities should have followed Kentucky Revised Statute 13A.100 when creating the policy, which would have required that the policy be "vetted in an open and transparent manner, where public comment is specifically incorporated as a way to ensure good governance as a voice for those affected."
The opinion goes on to add that legislative committee must review the proposed policy in a public forum before it can be enacted.
"In other words, the regulation process allows for what was entirely missing in the formulation of the unwritten policy at issue here -- a chance for the people of Kentucky to participate in determining the rules related to entry into their seat of government," the opinion continues.
Beshear's opinion does note that, before the new policy was implemented, members of The Poor People's Campaign remained inside the Capitol Building after regular business hours and actually spent the night inside the building.
"Although we recognize that the KSP and the Finance Cabinet must have the flexibility and discretion to respond to imminent threats to the security and welfare of persons working or otherwise using state-owned buildings, this is not a case involving such an imminent threat that the promulgation of administrative regulations was impossible," the opinion states. "The Poor People's Campaign scheduled its events on the Capitol grounds a week apart. Therefore, there was ample time for the Finance Cabinet and / or the KSP to avail themselves of the procedures for emergency administrative regulations."
"Any regulation passed in the future concerning entry to the Capitol will certainly have to comply with constitutional requirements," the opinion added.
Shortly after the opinion was released, the Dr. William Barber and Dr. Liz Theoharis, co-chairs of the Poor People's Campaign, released a joint statement praising the decision and spotlighting Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin and U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell as "those who seek to prey upon the poor."
"It should also be a message to all governors, state legislators and members of Congress," the statement said. "These buildings are the people's houses. The laws passed in them affect everyone, especially the poor. Any political leaders who refuse to listen to the people they represent cannot pretend to defend democracy or the inalienable rights our history has always called us towards. We won't be silent anymore."
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- Kentucky State Police commissioner explains why protesters are being kept out of the Capitol
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