The Kansas Young Democrats president, along with two Kansas State University students, can no longer enter the Kansas State Capitol Building Wednesday morning following the display of four banners protesting recent Medicaid expansion decisions.
Kansas Young Democrats President Katie Sullivan, a senior at KSU, along with KSU senior Nate Faflick and fifth year Jonathan Cole dropped four banners in the Capitol building, each covered in red hand prints and reading “Blood and their hands” and “#ExpandMedicaid.”
Each of the four also read a different state leader’s last name, representing Senate President Susan Wagle, Majority Leader Dan Hawkins, Speaker of the House Ron Rygman and Senate Majority Leader Jim Dennings — all Republicans.
“The banners were designed to be large, visible and made to directly call out the senators that are preventing medicaid expansion from taking place within the senate,” Cole told the Kansan.
This comes after the Kansas House passed legislation for Medicaid expansion on Monday, March 25, putting the fate of Medicaid expansion in the hands of the Republican-dominated Senate, according to the Wichita Eagle.
“Rights are literally at stake. We wanted to act as a voice for the 150,000 Kansans that are in need of Medicaid expansion,” Sullivan said.
Following the banner drop, the three were escorted to a Kansas Capitol police officer’s office where their names and drivers licenses were recorded. The three are not permitted to return to the Capitol for one year. The state house staff removed the banners shortly after.
Cole said they are currently in contact with the American Civil Liberties Union for possible violations of First amendment rights.
“I personally think it’s violating my freedom of speech,” Cole said. “I think I should be able to protest peacefully in my state legislature and I was forbidden from doing that by radical Republicans in the legislature, unfortunately.”
Legislative policy requires protestors to obtain advanced permission before bringing banners into the state house.
Wagle, Rygman and Dennings did not respond to request for comment by the time of publication. Hawkins’ office released a statement regarding the incident, deeming the students extremist demonstrators and stating supporters of progressive healthcare “don’t care about the facts.”
“They don’t have the facts on their side, so they resort to extremism,” Hawkins said in the statement. “We will not let extremists rule the day. That is not the Kansas way.”
This story is developing and will be updated as more information becomes available.