Article updated at 6:35 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 2 to add video:
Lawrence police were investigating Thursday after a reported altercation involving signs near an elementary school, where an anti-mask protester and pro-mask counter-protesters have been stationed often since school began last month.
Lt. David Ernst of the Lawrence Police Department said in an email that officers were dispatched to the 900 block of Schwarz Road in response to an altercation between two individuals shortly before 8 a.m. Thursday. Sunset Hill Elementary is located just south of the intersection at 901 Schwarz Rd.
Ernst said officers spoke with the alleged victim and witnesses, who said that the alleged victim was standing on the southwest corner of the intersection of West Ninth Street and Schwarz Road holding signs when a westbound vehicle on Ninth Street turned south onto Schwarz Road and stopped nearby.
Ernst said the suspect exited the vehicle and allegedly “forcefully took the signs the victim was holding, throwing one sign into the street and attempting to walk away with the other. The victim knocked over the suspect and retrieved the signs.”
A verbal argument ensued between the suspect and victim, Ernst said, and as the suspect was walking back toward the vehicle, the suspect allegedly grabbed one of the signs, which the alleged victim then retrieved. Ernst said the suspect left in the vehicle and headed southbound on Schwarz Road.
Ernst said the incident remains under investigation and no arrests or citations had been made as of Thursday afternoon. There were no known injuries as a result of the incident, he said.
Lawrence Public Schools spokesperson Julie Boyle said in an email that the district was aware of the altercation.
“It’s alarming that this occurred, especially in an area where young children walk to school. Our staff continues to monitor the activity in that area and report to police any safety concerns brought to our attention. We encourage citizens to also report any public safety concerns to law enforcement,” Boyle said.
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A Senate committee heard Monday about a bill that, among other things, would prevent schools from compelling anyone to carry a document regarding vaccination status. It would allow students, teachers and visitors to schools to opt out of mask or vaccination mandates.