So here I was getting ready for work another beautiful evening, when this article popped into my Facebook newsfeed from Dissent Newswire on Bill of Rights Defense Committee (BORDC) website concerning a librarian in my hometown public library. Steve Woolfolk, who is the director of public programming at Kansas City Public Library, was moderating a talk when an incident occurred during the Q&A.
On May 9, 2016, the Kansas City Public Library hosted an event entitled “Truman and Israel,” featuring [Dennis] Ross, and sponsored by the library, the Truman Library Foundation, and the Jewish Community Foundation (JCF) of Greater Kansas City. Given that there had been a shooting at the Jewish Community Center in Kansas City several years back, the library agreed to allow off-duty police to be on the scene. However, the library set two conditions. First, nobody could be forcibly removed for asking an unpopular question. Second, nobody could be removed at all without consulting with the library staff, who would only allow an individual to be removed if staff concluded they were an imminent threat. In addition to the off-duty police officers, private security guards associated with the JCF were also present. In spite of these precautions, a local peace activist, Jeremy Rothe-Kushel, was removed. When Woolfolk tried to sort things out he was arrested.
Rothe-Kushel was first in line for questions when the Q&A began shortly after the speaker , Dennis Ross, concluded his remarks. When Ross finished answering the question, Rothe-Kushel attempted to respond while standing at the mic. A security guard moved in to confront and grab Rothe-Kushel to force him to leave. Then a second security guard moved in to assist after Rothe-Kushel requested that the security remove his hands. At that point Steve Woolfolk inserted himself between Rothe-Kushel and the security guards without making any physical contact and asked the security guards to stand down to allow Rothe-Kushel to leave. Rothe-Kushel left peacefully without further incident. Woolfolk then turned to go notify his supervisor of the incident when he was physically assaulted by the off-duty police officer on the scene and apparently and undercover police officer that he had been unaware of. The second officer struck Woolfolk with a baton at the back of his knee causing injury to his ACL. He was arrested for interfering with a police action. The police then got an arrest warrant for Rothe-Kushel and arrested him for trespassing even though he had RSVP’d for the event and was on the guest list at a public library. Both Woolfolk and Rothe-Kushel are still facing charges. This seems to be an outrageous action on the part of the KC Police.
What is even more perturbing is that this incident occurred 4 months ago and the story is just now being reported. I had wondered why I had not heard this story back in May since I keep abreast of local news and have many local friends post local news to their feed. I searched Google for the story using several different key words and could not find a single reference to the incident from either the local city paper or the 4 local television news station. Nobody appeared to have reported the story. A librarian got arrested in the library protecting someone’s free speech and no one read about it.