Politics & Government

Police arrest 18 after occupation of Kobach office

Police arrested 18 people Monday after they occupied a room in Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach’s office to protest his positions on voter identification and immigration.

The demonstrators were part of the Poor People’s Campaign, which has been protesting in Topeka over the past couple weeks.

“Kris Kobach is a lead architect of voter suppression, not only across Kansas, but our entire nation,” said Rachel Shivers, a spokeswoman for the group.

About 30 demonstrators remained outside and chanted as the protestors were led away in handcuffs and into a bus at about 2:30 p.m. Several speakers rallied the crowd with a bullhorn. At times, police officers stepped outside and looked around before heading back.

"We're all the people. We are Kansas. We are America ... and we will not be moved," Durell Gilmore said.

The demonstrators were arrested after occupying a conference room in the secretary’s office.

Kobach responded quickly, with a statement from his campaign saying that he had fought illegal immigration throughout his career.

"What these protesters do not seem to understand is that the law is the law, and illegal means illegal," Kobach said.

Lt. Adam Winters with the Kansas Highway Patrol said 18 people were arrested and were taken to the Shawnee County Department of Corrections. He said they were arrested on suspicion of criminal trespassing, criminal mischief and interfering with official business.

The occupation of the first-floor conference room began around 1:30 p.m. For several minutes, police stayed back and allowed the demonstrators to chant inside.

A policeman on a bullhorn told the demonstrators that they were part of an unlawful assembly and told them to leave the building. Some did, others remained. Police then entered the room and closed the door.

Police then told those who remained in the building that they would face arrest if they did not leave. An Eagle reporter left the building after an officer approached him.

From outside, police inside could be seen with zip-tie handcuffs. Several police vehicles were parked outside the building, which is next to the Statehouse grounds.

Eventually, a bus pulled up and police led the arrested individuals into the bus through a side entrance as demonstrators crowded around.

The demonstrators were part of the Poor People's Campaign, a national group with a Kansas chapter that is planning demonstrations in Topeka over the next several weeks.