Sanctuary Alliance: Lawrence police actions against student protesters raise deep concerns (Column)

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Note: The Lawrence Times is offering some space for area organizations and organizers to express their views, provide updates and attempt to reach other folks who might share their mission. This post is contributed content (i.e., not produced by the Times staff) and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Times staff. See more in our Community Voices section, or see how to submit your own piece.

Presented by the members of Sanctuary Alliance – Lawrence, KS to Lawrence Police Chief Rich Lockhart and Lawrence City Manager Craig Owens.

Chief Lockhart and City Manager Owens:

We are writing today as community organizers as part of Sanctuary Alliance to express our deep concerns regarding the actions of the Lawrence Police Department against KU student protesters and the student organization KU Students for Justice in Palestine. 

First, we will mention that we are unequivocally in support and solidarity with the student protesters and affirm their actions and calls to the university to respond to their reasonable demands regarding the university’s involvement and complacency in the genocide of the Palestinian people. As a community organization dedicated to ensuring the city of Lawrence is welcoming to all regardless of background, we strongly oppose all forms of genocidal violence, ethnic cleansing, and xenophobia and stand with the people of Palestine. We applaud the students and their efforts to hold the KU chancellor and administration accountable for their direct or indirect involvement with Israel and hope the KU administration moves quickly toward discussion with students and divestment in any involvement with Israel. 

This past week, students peacefully exercised their right to protest on campus and were met with unnecessary and excessive force led by KU police and backed by your department. 

On the evenings of Tuesday, May 7 and Thursday, May 9, your officers responded and coordinated a mutual aid request by KU police to dismantle the student protests without consideration for their constitutional rights. During both evenings, 44-plus officers from all departments in the county responded to a peaceful protest with aggression and disregard. 

Without proper warning, on the evening of May 9, protesters were threatened and three were arrested for trespassing on their campus by KU police, again assisted by your department. Throughout the aggression by police, including your officers, students remained respectful and within their constitutional rights to assemble and peacefully protest. Regardless of the vague unsigned letter by the KU administration, unnecessary action was brought upon these students including chasing students through a library after they had disassembled. 

The actions by KU police and your department were abhorrent, unnecessary, and costly to the community of Lawrence. Though it may be protocol to answer a mutual aid request, your lack of forethought to question the actions of KU police led to potential danger to students and a waste of public taxpayer dollars to deploy your officers in excess. 

As members of Sanctuary Alliance, we have worked with your department, the city manager’s office and the city commission to adopt an ordinance and proclamation declaring our city as safe and welcoming to all, including the students of KU. Your actions were in complete contrast to your duty to uphold the status of welcoming and are a disgrace to the work of community safety. 

As community members, organizers and taxpayers, we ask you to formally address your actions and reasoning for both events and refuse to answer any future mutual aid calls from KU police for any action of peaceful protest on the KU campus. Your lack of transparency and excessive presence in support of the aggression against students is not the will of the community. 

Peaceful protest is the right of all community members. We will continue to hold you accountable for your actions and demand you withhold from creating harm toward students in our community. 

In Solidarity with KUSJP and student protesters,

— Sanctuary Alliance – Lawrence, KS

Sanctuary Alliance – Lawrence, KS is a collective of community organizers working to create sanctuary for Lawrence by creating policy that will hold city employees accountable for their interactions with federal enforcement and providing financial support to the immigrant community.

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Sanctuary Alliance: Lawrence police actions against student protesters raise deep concerns (Column)

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”We ask you to formally address your actions and reasoning for both events and refuse to answer any future mutual aid calls from KU police for any action of peaceful protest on the KU campus,” Sanctuary Alliance – Lawrence, KS writes to Lawrence police.

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More Community Voices:

Sanctuary Alliance: Lawrence police actions against student protesters raise deep concerns (Column)

Share this post or save for later

”We ask you to formally address your actions and reasoning for both events and refuse to answer any future mutual aid calls from KU police for any action of peaceful protest on the KU campus,” Sanctuary Alliance – Lawrence, KS writes to Lawrence police.

MORE …

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