Protesters ringed the state Capitol in Topeka to press Gov. Laura Kelly for an end to the stay-at-home order
Protesters mounted a slow-moving caravan around the Statehouse Thursday to push for an end to Gov. Laura Kelly’s stay-at-home order. (Photo by Nomin Ujiyediin, Kansas News Service)
by Jim McLean and Nomin Ujiyediin, Kansas News Service
Topeka, Kansas — Protesters angry about the stay-at-home order in Kansas and the tens of thousands of people it’s tossed from work rallied at the state Capitol Thursday.
They clogged traffic on the four blocks that ring the Statehouse for more than an hour, honking on horns, calling out slogans on bullhorns and pressing Gov. Laura Kelly to reopen businesses in the state.
“The virus is not as bad as originally thought. It’s time to get back to work,” said Neil Melton, a Prairie Village Republican who challenged then Rep. Barbara Bollier in the 2014 primary. “The virus is going to run its course regardless of what we do or don’t do.”
The demonstrators argued that the social and economic harm of the coronavirus-driven shutdown cratering the state and national economies now outweighs the threat from the pandemic.
More than 100 protesters gathered on the Capitol lawn. Perhaps multiples of that joined the demonstration by ever-so-slowly circling the Statehouse on 10th Avenue, Jackson Street, Eighth Avenue and Harrison Street in sedans, SUVs and pickup trucks, horns blaring.
“Nothing justifies the loss of liberty,” said Dale Pratt of Derby, 44, who took a day off from his factory job and brought his 5- and 11-year-old sons to Topeka. “It’s not whether one side is right and one is wrong. We have the right to disagree. We have the right to make poor decisions.”
Almost none of the protesters wore masks. A group of six people mounting a counterdemonstration did, and four of them wore medical scrubs.
“I’m here protecting my people,” said Francisca Alonyo, a nursing student at Washburn University in Topeka. “I’m here to show solidarity with those who are staying home and keeping social distancing.”
A small counterprotest outside the Capitol took place while a much larger crowd called for opening up the Kansas economy. (Photo by Nomin Ujiyediin, Kansas News Service)
The event was organized on Facebook by the Kansas City Area Preparedness Network, a community dedicated to bracing for an impending social collapse by stockpiling food, ammunition and other supplies. It was also organized by the Convention of States Kansas, a conservative civil liberties group.
Dubbed “Operation Gridlock Topeka,” the protest was also backed by the Facebook group Open Up Kansas! On its page, that group said: “It is time to open Kansas back up for business. … WE THE PEOPLE of Kansas can be safe, responsible, and LOUD!”
Jae Byrd Wells, a science fiction author from Wichita who also writes poetry, said Thursday that the protesters represented a wide range of political opinion. She’s a Trump supporter.
“There are liberals out here. There’s conservatives out here. There’s people that don’t support Trump that are out here,” she said. “People want to work and feed their families, so we’re all organizers of this. We’re all feeling each other’s pain.”
The governor issued executive orders in March limiting gatherings to 10 people and defining “essential businesses” that would remain open in the event of a stay-at-home order.
Kelly also ordered Kansans to stay at home unless they are buying food or other supplies, exercising while social distancing, seeking or providing medical care or working in an essential job. Her order has been extended until midnight May 3, although the limits on her emergency powers may mean it effective expires two days earlier.
Public health agencies and medical experts across the world have warned that social distancing is the only way to slow the spread of the coronavirus and avoid overwhelming hospitals.
But in Kansas, some Republican officials have pushed back on the governor’s orders, arguing that they stifle the economy and violate people’s right to worship.
At a news conference about state efforts to stem the coronavirus outbreak after the protests, Kelly said she’s balancing the economic harm against public safety.
“I understand their frustration. I’m just as frustrated with this. I wish I could just snap my fingers and be over with this,” the governor said. “But … we have to pay attention to the science.”
Polls suggest most Americans say it’s too early end shutdowns. Even among Republicans, there’s more opposition to protests like the one in Topeka on Thursday than support.
Emporia State University political scientist Michael Smith said polling and other data he’s seen show most Kansans back Kelly’s efforts to check the spread of the virus.
“Obviously, the detractors are very passionate,” he said, “but they’re not in the majority.”
Jim McLean is the senior correspondent for the Kansas News Service. You can reach him on Twitter @jmcleanks or email jim (at) kcur (dot) org.
Nomin Ujiyediin reports on criminal justice and social welfare for the Kansas News Service. Follow her on Twitter @NominUJ or email nomin (at) kcur (dot) org.
The Kansas News Service is a collaboration of KCUR, Kansas Public Radio, KMUW and High Plains Public Radio focused on health, the social determinants of health and their connection to public policy.
Kansas News Service stories and photos may be republished by news media at no cost with proper attribution and a link to ksnewsservice.org.
See more at https://www.kcur.org/news/2020-04-23/protesters-tell-gov-kelly-her-shutdown-is-a-bigger-threat-to-kansas-than-coronavirus.
Kansas City, Kansas, police have intercepted nearly $30,000 this week in cash shipped to fake addresses as part of a scam that preys on the fears of caring family members, primarily the elderly.
According to a police spokesman, investigators are working several cases in which a family member, usually a parent or grandparent living outside the metro area, receives a call informing them that a child or grandchild has been arrested and is in need of a large sum of cash – anywhere from $7,000 to $14,000. Police believe there was $60,000 involved in cases this week.
The caller identifies himself or herself as either an attorney or the actual family member in need. The victim then is directed to send cash to an address in Kansas City, Kansas, via a service such as FedEx or UPS, police said.
“In the majority of these cases, the cash is being shipped to a vacant residence,” Capt. William Wallace, a detective with the KCKPD, said. “The scammer then follows the tracking information, waits nearby for the package to be left on the doorstep and then swoops in to grab it. In one instance, the package was actually delivered to an occupied residence. In that case the scammer approached the resident once the delivery person left and claimed it was their package, but just misdelivered. When the resident refused, and said they were calling police, the individual ran off.”
KCK police are offering this advice to protect residents:
If you receive a similar call asking for cash to help a loved one:
• Ask the caller for the name of the loved one – many times the ask is general, for a “grandson” or “daughter.”
• Never send cash – that is the biggest red flag that it is not legitimate.
• Attempt to contact that family member immediately to verify the scam.
• Contact the Kansas City, Kansas, Police Department reporting desk at 913-573-8680 or your local police to file a report.
If you receive a package addressed to an unknown individual at your address:
• Do not open the package and call police immediately.
• If you do not wish to contact the police, simply refuse the delivery or if it has been left, contact the service and ask them to return to pick it up.
• Do not hand over any package delivered to your address to a third party.
“While we have intercepted nearly $30,000 our investigation thus far has verified that nearly $60,000 in cash has been delivered to false addresses within Kansas City, Kansas, as part of this scam,” Wallace said. “We believe that the individuals organizing this theft by deception, as it’s termed, live outside the metro, but operate as part of a network that includes assistance by locals. It’s really sad because they are preying on elderly relatives who live as far away as Pennsylvania and Georgia. If you also consider the financial and emotional stress that COVID-19 has already placed on so many families, it’s all the more predatory.”
Anyone who may have been a target of one of these scams or have information regarding this or similar financial scams, may contact the Kansas City, Kansas, Police Department at 913- 573-8680 or the Tips hotline at 816-474-TIPS.