Protesters gathered Friday night across the Flint Hills Discovery Center, where a welcome reception was held for the 2017 Kansas GOP Convention. (Staff photos by Brady Bauman)

Friday night the Kansas GOP held its welcome reception inside the Flint Hills Discovery Center in Manhattan to kickoff its 2017 convention.

But state Republicans weren’t just welcomed by a dinner and drinks. They were also welcomed by over 100 protesters across the street on Manhattan’s Blue Earth Plaza.

“We’re really humbled by all the people who came out tonight and stood here in solidarity for the people in our state,” said Jessica Kerr, who is a board member for the Manhattan Alliance for Peace and Justice. “When I think about, I think about what the GOP in Kansas represents, and that’s an experiment that has ultimately hurt the lives of people in our state, and they basically have been really hostile to the idea of a government that takes care of its people.”

Protesters hold up a banner advocating for Medicaid expansion in Kansas Friday night at Manhattan’s Blue Earth Plaza during the welcome reception of the 2017 Kansas GOP Convention.

MAPJ orchestrated the protest and one of its larger banners advocated for the expansion of KanCare — the state’s Medicaid program. Kansas is one of 19 states that has not yet accepted federal funding to expand Medicaid to adults with income up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level.

Protesters also showed displeasure with the concealed carry of firearms on college campuses, which is set to be allowed on July 1, by chanting “No guns on campus!” Kansas State University President Richard Myers has voiced similar disagreement with the law. There was also chants against President Trump’s attempt to ban travel to the U.S. from seven predominantly Muslim countries and his proposed wall along the U.S./Mexican border.

“These folks inside here, having their cakes and their drinks,” Kerr said, referencing those inside the Flint Hills Discovery Center, “they want to take this agenda to the national stage. And I think that as we’ve tried to export this logic of divestment and austerity, people decided they had a different agenda.

“We really just want to express our descent that it hasn’t been good for Kansans, and it’s not good for the country as a whole.”

Inside the Discovery Center, Kansas GOP Chair Kelly Arnold declined to go on record with KMAN when asked about the protest. He shrugged off the display and said he was aware a protest was going to happen and bolstered security for the reception.

Kerr said protesters came from Lawrence, Kansas City and Topeka, as well as the Manhattan community.

“We are watching,” she said, when asked about the potential for more protests in the future.  “Our consciousness has been opened. We are voters, we are organizers, we’re students, we’re families and we’re watching were this is going in our state, and we’re going to be there.”

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Source: KMAN Local News