This is a guest blog post by Wick Thomas about the Save MO Libraries rally.
I was the primary organizer of our Save MO Libraries rally in Jefferson City on Wednesday. The Governor is currently withholding 6 million dollars in appropriated funds from the libraries statewide and has recommended the same cuts next year. We decided to get some of our amazing teens together and take them to the Capitol to meet with their legislators to talk about why libraries are so important in their communities. We all had a great day until we got the Governor’s office where his staff had us thrown out and threatened us with state troopers…
We had almost 100 teenagers take off from Kansas City for the Save MO Libraries Rally bright and early at 8 a.m. with a great media send off. It is Kansas City Public Schools spring break so we had an especially good turnout!
We arrived at the Missouri River Regional Library at 11:00 a.m. for pizza, to make posters, and to have an orientation for the day. (The Missouri River Regional Library staff is amazing!) Then we headed over to the South Steps of the State Capitol for the rally at 1:00.
We started a few minutes early because it began to rain and we were worried about the sound equipment. The teens decided that the rally should happen regardless of the rain, though. We had library systems from all over Missouri join us! I got to introduce some great speakers: our Library Director Crosby Kemper, noted civil rights activist Alvin Sykes, Camden County Library Director Michael Davis, State Librarian Barbara Reading, and teens from Kansas City Academy, Southwest High, Truman, East High, Northeast High and Van Horn. It was a spirited rally and the teens were especially great.
After that we went to our scheduled meetings with almost all of the senators and representatives from the Kansas City library districts as well as the Secretary of State’s office. We split into three smaller groups to be more manageable and so the teens could meet with their specific officials. All of the meetings went very well. Our kids asked good questions and most of the legislators greeted them warmly and thanked them for caring so deeply about this issue.
We then headed to the Governor’s office. His staff told us he was currently out of state but knew that we were going to come to his office anyway to speak with them. We got many of the teens into the reception area and then started calmly and respectfully asking them questions. After one of our teen’s questions we were told that since there were meetings going on we were being too loud and had to leave. (We have video that clearly shows we were not being loud.) We asked if their staff would come out into the hall with us and talk to us there so we wouldn’t bother anyone and they denied that request. Mr. Kemper and myself tried to reason with the staff and were then told that they would have State Troopers escort us out if we didn’t leave immediately. We complied and left his office. They then called up extra security to monitor us and had Governor Nixon escorted out with four police officers. (I guess he wasn’t actually out of state!) Many of our teens then went up and watched the chamber from the visitor’s gallery and then we boarded the buses back to Kansas City.
Needless to say, many of our teens are now especially fired up about this topic. I have never been so disrespected by a public official and am especially appalled they treated our kids that way and then blamed it on them. (When they had already met with a dozen other officials with no problems at all.)
What now?- This is just the start.
* After the teens were treated so poorly, the hashtag #savemolibraries really took off.
* The petition to the Governor has received over 300 signatures since yesterday. On it you will find contact information for the Governor and for the House/Senate budgetary committees. Please share it with everyone you know.
* It is especially important that you contact the Senate budgetary committee members right now as they began their deliberations this week.
* Follow @kclibraryteens on Twitter and Facebook. (Pics from the rally are there!)
* Direct people to www.savemolibraries.org for updates on the campaign.
* This link includes handouts and images you can use at your library!
* Let me know if you want to get involved so we can make this a more unified statewide effort!
We are going to be meeting with the teens who attended and strategize on what to do next. They are especially fired up about this and want to help lead the charge!
Save MO Libraries!