Kansas City Public Library officials said Friday they are outraged that the city continues to pursue the prosecution of an employee and a patron arrested at a public event earlier this year.
The arrests occurred after a provocative question was asked at the question-and-answer period of a May 9 talk by diplomat Dennis Ross. For months, library officials protested that the arrests and charges were a violation of the First Amendment.
The library did not go public with its opposition until recently, with city prosecutors appearing determined to pursue charges.
Police have stood by the arrests, saying that off-duty officers hired by an event sponsor acted properly in helping private security stop an audience member from asking follow-up questions after a short exchange with Ross.
The audience member, Jeremy Rothe-Kushel of Lawrence, was standing still and speaking into a microphone when a private guard and off-duty police officers removed him.
Steve Woolfolk, director of public programming for the library, protested the police action and tried to intervene before the entire group left the room and both men were arrested.
A friend of Rothe-Kushel recorded parts of the incident on video, while Woolfolk’s arrest was captured by library surveillance video that is not available for public release but was viewed by a Star reporter.
Rothe-Kushel is charged in city court with trespassing and resisting arrest. Woolfolk is charged with interfering with an arrest.
On Friday, R. Crosby Kemper III, the executive director of the city’s library system, said the private security guards were not acting on behalf of the library and had no right to remove a patron for asking a question. Kemper said he could not understand why the police believed they should arrest the patron or the library employee.