Capitol Police have overturned a one-year ban for three Kansas State University students who displayed massive "blood on their hands" banners in a protest urging Republican leaders to allow a vote on Medicaid expansion.
The students were detained by Capitol Police Officer Scott Whitsell shortly after unfurling the banners Wednesday in the Statehouse rotunda. Whitsell told them they couldn't return for one year.
Lt. Eric Hatcher, who oversees officers in the Statehouse, lifted the ban.
"There are some things that I prefer to be done a certain way," Hatcher said, "and it wasn't done a certain way, and I won't elaborate beyond that."
Hatcher said officers have the discretion to ban visitors depending on the action, and some bans can be longer than a year. Statehouse rules prohibit the display of banners.
The four banners used in the protest were 24 feet high and 10 feet wide, and were dangled from the fifth-floor railing. The banners named Senate President Susan Wagle, Senate Majority Leader Jim Denning, House Speaker Ron Ryckman and House Majority Leader Dan Hawkins and used the hashtag #ExpandMedicaid.
"They violated the rules, they shouldn't have done it, but that is a long ban for that," Hatcher said. "I agree that something should be done, but not that long."
Hatcher said he considered the matter to be put to rest.
Thea Perry, a rural Leavenworth County resident, organized the event and was joined by Topeka Rev. Sarah Oglesby-Dunegan and K-State students Jonathan Cole, Katie Sullivan and Nate Faflick.
Hatcher said he couldn't speak to why only the students were punished.
Perry said the students' right to protest was denied by an overzealous officer.
"The students and people of Kansas have a First Amendment right to speak and be heard, and that’s not just lip service," Perry said.