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Protester Banished From The Plaza Settles Lawsuit Against Kansas City Police

Police lead a protestor away from a demonstration near the Country Club Plaza on May 30.
Carlos Moreno
Police lead a protester away from a demonstration near the Country Club Plaza last year during protests following the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Police banished some protesters, and one of them filed a lawsuit.

Police told Theresa Taylor that if she returned to the Plaza, she'd be arrested again and held without bail.

Updated: July 14, 2021 at 4:37 PM CDT
This story has been updated to include the comments of a spokeswoman for the Kansas City Police Department.

A woman who was banished from the Country Club Plaza after she was arrested last year during police brutality protests has settled her lawsuit against the Kansas City Board of Police Commissioners.

Under the settlement, Kansas City police have agreed to end their use of banishment orders, which protester Theresa Taylor had challenged as unconstitutional.

Taylor was represented by the ACLU of Missouri and the MacArthur Justice Center, which sued after Taylor was arrested and released from jail on condition that she not return to the Plaza.

“If the right to free speech means anything, it means that citizens have the right to take to the streets to voice their objections to government overreach without fear of retaliation,” Tony Rothert, Legal Director of the ACLU of Missouri, said in a statement. “Here some police officers did not like criticism and responded by abusing their authority.”

Donna Drake, a spokeswoman for the police department, said in an email that the department was "grateful" for the opportunity to work with the ACLU and has made "adjustments and changes to include our new First Amendment policy."

"KCPD continues to work hard to support the First Amendment rights of the citizens of Kansas City," she said.

Taylor was arrested during a protest demonstration in Kansas City on June 1, 2020, one of hundreds across the country provoked by the killing of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man, by Minneapolis police. The protesters were marching north on Main Street toward downtown when they were blocked by police at 31st Street. Taylor and other protesters started heading back to the Plaza when they were ordered to disperse.

Taylor was detained while standing on a sidewalk. Her hands were zip-tied and she was ordered to sit against a wall. She was detained for several hours before being told she had failed to comply with a lawful police order. After she posted $1,000 bail, police told her and other arrested protesters that if they returned to the Plaza, they’d be arrested again and held without bail.

In her lawsuit, Taylor claimed that she and the other arrested protesters were mocked and taunted by the police while they were being transported downtown.

Although the charges against Taylor were eventually dismissed, the banishment order had remained in effect.

In addition to ending police banishment orders, the settlement with Taylor also requires police to conduct training on protesters’ First Amendment rights.

“Now more than ever we must safeguard the right to protest from police overreach and violence – especially where protests are about the police themselves,” Amy Breihan, co-director of the MacArthur Justice Center, said in a statement.

Dan Margolies has been a reporter for the Kansas City Business Journal, The Kansas City Star, and KCUR Public Radio. He retired as a reporter in December 2022 after a 37-year journalism career.
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