Two Phelpses arrested at Brown dedication

The Capital-Journal/May 17, 2004
By Tim Hrenchir and Cait Purinton

Topeka police said they thought security measures went well for today's Brown v. Board of Education Historic Site dedication, though two protesters from Westboro Baptist Church were arrested at the scene.

People who attended today's ceremony tended to be patient and well-behaved, said Topeka police Maj. Jerry Young, who was in charge of security.

"It was a great event for Topeka," he said.

Police Lt. Randy Listrom identified those arrested by police and U.S. park rangers as Margie J. Phelps, 47, and Jacob Z. Phelps, 20, both of 3734 S.W. 12th. Each was taken in connection with one misdemeanor count each of disobeying a lawful police order, Listrom said.

Margie Phelps is the daughter of the Rev. Fred. W. Phelps Sr. Jacob Phelps is her son. They are members of Phelps' congregation at Westboro Baptist Church, which is known for conducting anti-homosexual picketing.

Listrom said Margie and Jacob Phelps entered the fenced area where Monday's event was held, then stood on chairs holding a banner and an American flag that was hung upside down. Both were arrested after they refused an order from park rangers to get down, according to Listrom, who said the event's rules banned them from having the flag and banner inside the fence.

Records showed Margie and Jacob Phelps were booked into the Shawnee County Jail, where an official said late Monday afternoon that both had been released on bond.

No other arrests were made at Monday's event, Listrom said.

However, a man wearing a bright shirt -- which falsely indicated he was a member of the security detail --was met at the north entrance to the celebration site by several police officers, who told him he would be arrested if he came further. He left, and wasn't arrested.

It wasn't clear whether anyone else was asked to leave Monday's event.

Topeka Police Chief Ed Klumpp said he was very satisfied with the way security arrangements went Monday and at related activities that occurred over the weekend. Topeka police were among 13 law enforcement and government agencies involved with security at Monday's celebration.

Young said Brown-related events where Topeka police provided security over the weekend meant overtime pay for "a lot" of officers. He didn't know how much that would cost the department.

Police Maj. Gary Herman said the department changed officers' days off work so that nobody was scheduled to be off Monday. Police also brought in officers who generally worked evening and night shifts to help with Monday's events.

Police said agencies involved had been planning the celebration's security efforts for several months. Authorities felt particularly concerned because important people, including President Bush, were to appear outdoors in an area of homes and businesses.

Sharpshooters perched atop the Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site and other area buildings at Monday's event, scanning the grounds for any behavior they might consider suspicious.

At the request of the Secret Service, Young said, school buses and large trucks had been placed around the perimeter outside the fence.

Before visitors were allowed inside, they walked through a metal detector. Many were also searched using a hand-held detector. Authorities confiscated any items found that were prohibited inside the fence.

Klumpp said authorities seized about two dozen small knives, mostly pocketknives, as well as about a half-dozen containers of pepper spray or mace, two umbrellas and a pair of scissors. Those items were taken to the property room at police headquarters, where owners may reclaim them.

As people waited to enter the grounds, a long line developed, Herman said.

"We became backed up about to the point where people had a 30-minute wait," he said.

Herman said in the morning before Monday's event a police officer driving with his emergency lights on was hit by another motorist at S.W. 17th and Topeka Boulevard. Damage was minor, and there were no injuries, he said.

An American Medical Response ambulance dispatcher said AMR took two patients to Topeka hospitals from the celebration site. AMR also treated several people at the scene for minor medical problems.

One person who had been at the event was released after receiving treatment for a heat-related problem Monday at Stormont-Vail Regional Health Center, said hospital spokeswoman Nancy Burkhardt.

"We also saw a person from the media who evidently cut his hand, but he left before he was treated because he had to get back to doing his job," she said.

Young said police appreciated the cooperation they received Monday from other law enforcement agencies, as well as businesses and homeowners in the Monroe area.

Outside the Monroe area, the city of Topeka was calm Monday afternoon. Klumpp said that at no point did police find themselves with more calls than available officers.

Shawnee County Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Deputy Martha Lutz said deputies on patrol in the county reported "nothing out of the ordinary."

Deputies helped direct traffic at the Kansas Expocentre, where people attending the celebration parked their cars and got onto buses that shuttled them to the historic site or to the Capitol for a celebration featuring Democratic presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass.

"It went really smooth, getting people into the Expocentre," Lutz said. "They did an excellent job."

She said about 20 volunteers from the sheriff's Citizens' Academy handed out brochures with information about what people could and couldn't take with them into the secured areas of the Brown v. Board of Education celebration and Gov. Sebelius' proclamation event.

Topeka firefighters also reported no major activity in the city during Monday's celebrations.

"It seems to be going OK," said Battalion Chief A.R. Smith.

He said additional firefighters worked Monday to support the department's specialty units for technical rescue and hazardous materials. An engine company of four firefighters was stationed at Monroe for the celebration, Smith said.

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