Kansas City Protester Settles Lawsuit and Ends Kansas City Police Department’s Use of “Banishment Order” 

The lawsuit was brought by the ACLU of Missouri and MacArthur Justice Center to protect free speech and the right to travel

MISSOURI -  The Kansas City Police Department has agreed to stop the practice of officers imposing bond conditions such as banishing protesters from certain parts of the city, including the Plaza (i.e., utilizing “banishment orders”), a tactic used against individuals arrested at protests in the wake of George Floyd’s murder last summer.

The settlement stems from a lawsuit brought by Theresa Taylor, who was arrested at a peaceful protest last summer. When Theresa was released from jail hours later, KCPD gave her a verbal order not to return to the Plaza or a protest, or else she would be arrested and held without bail. 

The lawsuit was filed by the ACLU of Missouri and MacArthur Justice Center against the Kansas City Board of Police Commissioners challenging the use of unconstitutional banishment order as a violation of the First and Fourteenth Amendments.

“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,” said Tony Rothert, Legal Director of the ACLU of Missouri.  “Here some police officers did not like criticism and responded by abusing their authority.”

Under the terms of the settlement, the Kansas City Police Department must also conduct training of detention officers on the bond schedule and direct them not to impose any conditions of release beyond the schedule or those imposed by a court or prosecutor. The terms also require training around the First and Fourth Amendment as well as Anti-Bias and De-escalation best practices. 

“Now more than ever we must safeguard the right to protest from police overreach and violence--especially where protests are about the police themselves,” said Amy Breihan, Co-Director at the MacArthur Justice Center. “This settlement does that, by prohibiting KCPD from using such banishment orders against protesters in the future, and requiring training so they are better informed about protesters’ First Amendment rights.”

As she alleged in her complaint, Taylor was one of the hundreds of non-violent protesters who, since the murder of George Floyd, have been arrested and punishedt by local law enforcement for exercising their free speech rights. In June 2020, Taylor was one of about 100 nonviolent protesters, led by a minister, who gathered on the Plaza and marched toward downtown Kansas City.

When they reached police blockades preventing them from continuing their march, Taylor remained with a  group of protesters who were soon approached by police aggressively banging their shields with their batons and ordering them to leave the area. As they were attempting to disperse as ordered and walking back to the Plaza where they had gathered initially and parked their cars in a nearby neighborhood, a group of officers suddenly rushed forward and arrested them. Taylor was on the sidewalk at the time of her arrest.

Taylor was detained in a cell with seven other protestors for several hours - without ever being told her charges. During this time, officers made rude and disparaging jokes mocking the protesters. She was later informed that she had been charged with violating Ordinance § 70-73 for failing to comply with the lawful order of a police officer with the authority to direct, control, or regulate traffic. A bond was set at $1,000 without her even seeing a judge. 

It was at 4:00 am, when posting bail, that Taylor and the other protesters were given a verbal banishment order by police officers. The term “Plaza” was not defined by the officers and has several varying geographic boundaries under Kansas City’s own ordinances.

While Taylor’s municipal charges were subsequently dismissed, the verbal banishment order remained. She was afraid that if she ever returned to a protest or to the Plaza for any reason, she could face arrest and further punishment.