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Lawrence anti-mask protester charged with 3 felonies after arrest at vaccine clinic for kids

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Article updated at 1:56 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 4:

A man who has become widely known for his protests against mask mandates has been charged with three low-level felonies following an alleged incident at a clinic where 5- to 11-year-olds were getting COVID-19 vaccines.

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Justin Spiehs, 40, of Lawrence, was arrested Saturday, Nov. 13, after police were called to a vaccine clinic at West Middle School. Police said a person had reported that Spiehs had separated a stick from a sign he was holding and began to wave the stick at them, causing them to fear bodily harm. He spent most of that day in custody of the Douglas County jail before being released on a $2,500 surety bond.

According to court records, Spiehs appeared in court Thursday and said he planned to hire his own attorney but had not yet done so.

He was charged with three felonies: two counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, for allegedly placing an adult and a 9-year-old child in fear of immediate bodily harm; and interference with law enforcement, for allegedly obstructing an officer in discharge of official duty. All are alleged to have occurred Nov. 13. Deputy District Attorney Joshua Seiden filed the charges, the document shows.

Spiehs’ next hearing is set for 2 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 15, with Judge Sally Pokorny. As of Friday evening, no attorney had entered an appearance in the case, according to court records.

Spiehs has regularly been seen protesting near Lawrence school district offices and buildings throughout the fall 2021 semester, and he has been vocal against Douglas County’s mask mandate for young children. He also made waves at the Statehouse during recent hearings, as the Kansas Reflector has reported.

Spiehs has been employed as a professor at Washburn University and was teaching classes earlier in the semester. University spokesperson Patrick Early said via email Saturday that Spiehs is “on administrative leave and has no duties at Washburn.”

Early previously told the Kansas Reflector that there was no WU prohibition hindering Spiehs from speaking his mind.

“Again, this (the administrative leave) results from a personnel matter unrelated to his protests and recent arrest,” Early said Saturday. “He was placed on leave in September and has not been on campus since last summer. His contract expires at the end of this academic year.”

All arrestees and defendants in criminal cases should be presumed not guilty unless and until they are convicted.

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Mackenzie Clark (she/her), reporter/founder of The Lawrence Times, can be reached at mclark (at) lawrencekstimes (dot) com. Read more of her work for the Times here. Check out her staff bio here.

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