While protesting the City of Wichita’s decision to repeatedly delay the trial of Doris Ravenfeather Gent, Occupy Wichita won a victory for supporters of free speech and the right to assemble. As we marched in the plaza outside the South doors of the Wichita Municipal building, a police supervisor in charge of building security approached Bill Anderson and told him that we were not allowed to protest in the outdoor plaza and that we were only permitted to demonstrate on the public sidewalks on the far perimeter of the block. (video below)
The officer, a Mr. Quinn, informed us that protesters in the past were only permitted on those outer sidewalks that border the street. After some brief debate, it was determined that the officer (I am unsure of Mr. Quinn’s rank) did not know the exact laws concerning the protests in the plaza and he offered to take one demonstrator upstairs to the City Law Department to get an official answer.
Janice Bradley accompanied Mr. Quinn to the Law Department where she hand delivered a letter (linked above) to the city’s Director of Law, Gary Rebenstorf, asking Rebenstorf to investigate the case against Doris, who was arrested and charged with obstruction of justice after peacefully protesting at the Governor’s town hall meeting. The prosecution has delayed Doris’ trial for the third time, despite only having one official continuance.
The first continuance was filed by the prosecution. The second continuance was filed by the defense, on the day of the trial, while the courtroom was packed with Doris’ supporters, ready to testify on her behalf. The prosecution, at the last minute, presented new police reports, despite the fact that the arrest occurred months before, forcing the defense to continue, in order to investigate these new reports.
The third continuance came at the prosecution’s request, because, in their words, their office was too understaffed to proceed at that time. Upon hearing of this third continuance, Occupy Wichita staged a protest outside the doors of City Hall, calling upon the prosecution to file a motion to dismiss the fabricated charges against Doris. The prosecution has repeatedly delayed this trial in the hopes that Doris’ supporters and the media will lose interest in the case.
The prosecution also knows that Doris, as a retired nurse with a severely disabled child, is living on a fixed budget. Her legal fees grow every time the prosecution stalls.
After some debate and deliberation in the City’s Law Department, the decision was made to allow us to continue our protest in the plaza. Based on this precedent, we will continue to protest in the plaza of the Wichita Municipal Building until Doris is given her day in court, as is her right, or until the city drops the charges against her. The city has been stalling on this case since November and needs to either present their evidence or drop the charges. Doris is the only member of Occupy Wichita that has been arrested and she deserves a speedy trial, as guaranteed by the Sixth Amendment of the United States Constitution.