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Attorney General: Not Allowing Poor People's Campaign On Capitol Grounds Violated Law

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FRANKFORT, Ky. (LEX 18) — Blocking members of the Poor People's Campaign from the state Capitol violated state law, Kentucky's attorney general says.

In an opinion released Monday, Attorney General Andy Beshear argues that the Kentucky Finance and Administration Cabinet and the Kentucky State Police violated the law when they did not allow the Poor People's Campaign into the Capitol Grounds.

Beshear says that KRS Chapter 13A was violated when the group was not allowed entry into the Capitol building to protest.

"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 reads. "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 reads the opinion."

The campaign rallied there June 4 to protest Medicaid work requirements and other issues when they were told they could only enter the Capitol building two at a time. The group claims other groups were then allowed in together.

The Poor People's Campaign released a statement responding to the opinion:

“Today’s legal opinion issued by the attorney general confirms what we knew all along: that when the state of Kentucky denied entry to the Capitol to hundreds of Poor People’s Campaign protesters, it was a clear violation of our constitutional rights. We were never going to let an arbitrary ruling aimed at silencing our voices stop us from joining together and speaking out, but today’s victory should be a sign to Gov. Bevin, Mitch McConnell and all those who seek to prey upon the poor that we will not back down. Coming days after a federal judge blocked Kentucky’s attempt to impose work requirements on Medicaid recipients, it’s clear the tide is turning in Kentucky, and that the voices of the poor will be heard.

“It should also be a message to all governors, state legislators and members of Congress. 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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