Politics & Government

Police again limit anti-poverty activists in Kentucky Capitol

For the fourth time this month, anti-poverty demonstrators tried to enter the Kentucky Capitol Monday but were told by police that only two members could enter at a time.

Kentucky is the only state in the country that has denied Poor People's Campaign participants access to their statehouse, said Jeremy Porter of Lexington, a member of the campaign.

He also said the group still is exploring its legal options.

For six consecutive Mondays, several dozen of the anti-poverty demonstrators have met on the Capitol grounds to call for changes in economic, racial, environmental and tax policies to help poor people.

Similar protests in dozens of other states are to culminate Saturday at a national rally at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C.

The Kentucky protests began drawing attention after the group was told it could not congregate inside the Capitol.

Kentucky State Police limited access to the protesters to only two at a time after some members of the group blocked traffic near the Capitol and entered restricted property at the nearby Governor's Mansion. The group says the requirement is unconstitutional because it only applies to them.

Groups must obtain a permit from the state to hold rallies in the Capitol but the Poor People's Campaign has declined to seek such a permit.

Earlier this month, the Rev. William J. Barber II of North Carolina, national co-chairman of the Poor People's Campaign, came to the Kentucky Capitol and charged Gov. Matt Bevin with hypocrisy for swearing on a Bible to uphold the Constitution and then refusing to let people into the Capitol to criticize the government.

"We believe we have freedom of association and are being denied that right," said Porter, who works for a non-profit in Lexington. "This group is being targeted."

He said he had messages to deliver to the governor and other state leaders on how poverty issues affect Kentuckians.

Paul Trickel, a social worker from Florence, tried Monday to get inside the Capitol with several demonstrators but was blocked.

He told police that three people ahead of him got in but his group did not.

Police referred him to the Kentucky State Police public relations office.

"If it starts with us, who's next?" asked Trickel. "Two at a time for the media?"

After the unsuccessful attempts to get inside the Capitol, the group held a rally at the bottom of the Capitol's front steps that featured speeches and music.

"We are a new and unsettling force," the Rev. Don Gillett, pastor of East Second Christian Church in Lexington, told the crowd. That quote is based on a Martin Luther King Jr. quote from 1968 about the power of poor people coming together across race.

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