(JTA) — The head of Missouri’s Kansas City library system slammed the arrest of a Jewish patron during a lecture on Israel held at the institution earlier this year, accusing the police of violating the First Amendment.
The patron, Jeremy Rothe-Kushel, was arrested in May after asking a question in which he called U.S. and Israeli policy “state-sponsored terrorism.”
“At this stage, I’m actually outraged,” the executive director of the city’s library system, R. Crosby Kemper III, told the Kansas City Star on Friday. “This is a big violation of the very first amendment to the Constitution of the United States.”
Following a lecture at the Kansas City Library’s Plaza branch by former government Middle East adviser Dennis Ross, Rothe-Kushel asked whether Jewish Americans should worry about U.S. and Israeli policies that amount to “state-sponsored terrorism.”
As Rothe-Kushel tried to ask an additional question, a private security guard and an off-duty police officer grabbed him. He was then arrested by off-duty police officers, and charged with trespassing and resisting arrest.
Police also arrested a library official, Steve Woolfolk, for interfering with the arrest.
The library opposed the arrests for months, but decided to publicly announce its disapproval, as city prosecutors seemed to want to move forward with the charges, the Kansas City Star reported.
While the library does not usually allow hired security at its events, an exception was made for Ross’ lecture, partially due to a shooting in 2014 at two Jewish facilities in Overland Park, Kansas, that killed three people.
The guard and off-duty police officers were hired by the Jewish Community Foundation of Greater Kansas City.