Tuesday, October 04, 2016
kcur | Kansas City Public Library Executive Director R. Crosby Kemper III said off-duty police officers "over-reacted" when they arrested Steve Woolfolk, the library's director of public programming, along with community member Jeremy Rothe-Kushel during an event at the Plaza branch in May.
The incident took place on May 9, but despite the presence of hundreds of witnesses, it gained no media attention until it was reported last week on the Bill of Rights Defense Committee's website.
The story detailed Woolfolk's arrest during a library event headlined "Truman and Israel," featuring Dennis Ross, a special envoy to the Middle East who who had served in the Obama, Clinton and George H. W. Bush administrations.
As soon as the question-and-answer session started, Jeremy Rothe-Kushel, identified as a local peace activist, asked Ross a question. As Rothe-Kushel tried to reply to Ross, one of the private security guards grabbed him. In an audiotape provided to KCUR by the library, Rothe-Kushel clearly says he will leave voluntarily.
Woolfolk tried to intervene and was charged with interfering with the arrest of Rothe-Kushel, who was charged with trespassing and resisting arrest.
Kemper was not at the event. Afterwards, he said, he got a phone call from Carrie Coogan, the library's deputy director of public affairs, explaining what happened.
"I went to bail Steve out and helped Jeremy Rothe-Kushel get bailed out of jail as well," Kemper told Central Standard host Brian Ellison on Monday.
The event was sponsored by the Jewish Community Foundation of Greater Kansas City and the Truman Library. The library was sensitive to security concerns because of shootings at the Jewish Community Center and Village Shalom a year earlier, Kemper said, and agreed to the hiring of off-duty police.
"They over-reacted. We've had hundreds of events, with much more raucous disputation. Nobody's ever put their hands on a questioner," Kemper said.
"We have tried to resolve it. It happened on May 9, and it's now October 3. We are trying to resolve it with the least amount of damage to everyone," Kemper said, describing the arrest of the questioner at a public event, and the librarian who intervened, as "silliness."