This letter was hand delivered to Gary Rebensdorf, Director of Law for the City of Wichita:
Mr. Gary Rebenstorf
Director of Law
City Hall, 13th floor
455 North Main
Wichita, Kansas 67202
Dear Mr. Rebenstorf:
This letter is on behalf of members of Occupy Wichita, an organization of community activists formed on Oct 2, 2011. We are members of the public and want to call your attention to the case of Doris Gent (incident # 11C 80127) on November 16, 2011, at Governor Brownback’s Town Hall on Childhood Poverty at the Broadview/Drury Hotel. We do not represent Doris, or her attorney.
Other civic organizations called for protests against Governor Brownback outside the Broadview/Drury before the meeting began. The hotel was ostensibly uncomfortable with the protests outside and the SRS officials came out to invite the protesters inside to register and attend the town hall. Occupy Wichita members attended as pre-registered participants.
Occupy Wichita began to pass out a small quarter-page flier outside the ballroom about Governor Brownback’s and SRS Secretary Siedlecki’s assaults on the elderly, poor, women, mentally ill and disabled people. The SRS staff and the WPD officer hired as security eventually prohibited Occupy Wichita from passing out the flier at the public town hall.
Occupy Wichita listened to several speakers. Then, when Robert Rector, of the Heritage Foundation was in the last 10 minutes of his 45-minute speech, Occupy Wichita silently protested by standing up with their backs to the main speaker. When the speaker finished, after brief applause, they used the human microphone to present their views from the flier that was suppressed. The SRS staff called a short break and asked to clear the room, but many participants stayed to listen to the presentation. The presentation ended before all the points on the flier had been made and all were exiting the ballroom to applause by sympathetic audience members, when the police swarmed in on three older women and arrested Doris.
Even while Doris was being arrested right outside the doors, the speaker at the podium from SRS, Charles Unruh, was asking Occupy Wichita activists to stay and participate in the discussions at the tables.
Only after her arrest, did we learned that Doris is the devoted mother of a profoundly disabled child, whom she cares for at home with her husband. Occupy Wichita had no intention of anyone getting arrested for lawfully protesting decisions made by government officers who represent us all, speaking for those who cannot speak for themselves. The flier began with a quote from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., “Our lives begin to end the moment we become silent about things that matter.”
As members of the public, Occupy Wichita believes that this is a frivolous and baseless case, and that there is neither probable cause nor evidence for the arrest, nor for the prosecution of this case. The trial has been continued and delayed for several months, due to actions by the prosecutor.
As members of the public, we are requesting that you, as Director of Law, make an effort to look into this case, read the file and remedy this unjust charge. We seek the dismissal of the baseless charge against Doris Gent.