By Martin Hawver

Guest Columnist

strange thing happened outside the Statehouse a week ago.
A few protesters, who had registered their intention to hold a public forum on the south steps of the Statehouse and who had been provided a state podium and loudspeaker system, were told they couldn’t bring flags on flagpoles onto the Statehouse grounds.
The group was the Kansas Equality Coalition, supporters of equal rights for gay, lesbian, bisexual and trans-gendered people.  Not really a rowdy crowd. The protesters had some U.S. and Kansas flags and that colorful diversity flag, which is essentially a rainbow of colors with no writing on it.
Now, the official explanation from the authorities was that the flagpoles could become weapons, and the state doesn’t allow weapons and things that can become weapons on the Statehouse grounds.
Well, that sounds fair enough. But the Equality Coalition is the first group in recent memory—and this isn’t just rabble, it even has a registered lobbyist—to be told to take flags off of the flagpoles because of the possibility that they might hurt someone.
Oh…the rally was to make fun of Gov. Sam Brownback for his plans to attend a national American Family Association convention in Houston in August. The Equality Coalition members say the AFA is anti-gay, and they don’t much care for the governor of their state going to the convention where he’s sure to be introduced as “Kansas Governor Brownback,” not just Sam Brownback.
They see a little splash-back on their efforts to encourage civil rights in Kansas when their governor is appearing in a rally which isn’t likely to be enthused about equal rights for gay, lesbian, bisexual and trans-gendered people.
The real deal here is there is some splash-back on the governor, too. Nope, he didn’t order the Equality Coalition members to take their flags off their poles and stick the poles in the trunk of a car, but people who work for him did. And that’s why what would have been a peaceable little late Friday afternoon demonstration—one probably quickly forgotten—instead became a marker for his administration.
The little shouting match during which the Equality Coalition was told it couldn’t bring its flagpoles on to the Statehouse grounds made for a dab of extra TV time for the group, not a bad thing for the coalition but probably not what the authorities had in mind.
And…the pretty peaceable group now has scheduled another rally on the Statehouse steps next month. Members are telling people to bring their flags but not flagpoles and their signs but no sign poles, to show someone that they can rally without causing any problems or dangers. Now, that gives them a little leg up on the issue of just what’s the right way to deal with crowds at the Statehouse.
Public relations-wise, the state government run by Brownback loses some points here. And, as in all of politics, nothing ever goes away.
A big deal? Really, not, but one that will be remembered…probably next time the Boy Scouts or the National Guard, or…maybe the sword-bearing Knights of Columbus, have a little public event on the Statehouse lawn…
Syndicated by Hawver News Company LLC of Topeka; Martin Hawver is publisher of Hawver’s Capitol Report—to learn more about this statewide nonpartisan political news service, visit the website at www.hawvernews.com.