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Gay Rights Activists Arrested at Ham Breakfast Protest

Update 5:15 p.m.: Hartman Says Police Didn't Give Enough Time
Fairness Campaign Director Chris Hartman told WFPL News that he has protested at the Kentucky Farm Bureau Country Ham Breakfast & Auction for many years but has never had a similar altercation.

“This year was entirely different,” he said. “The state troopers seemed like they were on edge. You know, though the troopers made their presence known last year. This year, from the onset, they were all over us.”

Michael Aldridge, executive director of the ACLU of Kentucky, said the three arrested protesters were released from jail Thursday and have trial dates set for Monday morning. He said they are meeting with attorneys affiliated with ACLU of Kentucky, who plan to represent them.

Trooper Paul Blanton, a spokesman for the Kentucky State Police, had said officers told Hartman and others to sit down before arresting them. On Thursday afternoon, Hartman said the protesters weren’t given enough time to comply with the orders.

“When we stood up there was a cacophony of shouting from the state troopers,” he said. “I am talking less than 10 seconds later, I am being seized and arrested.”

Earlier: Three gay rights activists were arrested Thursday morning during a protest at the Kentucky Farm Bureau Ham Breakfast and Auction at the fairgrounds.

Activists Chris Hartman, Carla Wallace and Sonja DeVries face failure to disperse charges, according to the Kentucky State Police. Hartman, director of the Fairness Campaign, also faces a disorderly conduct charge. The charges are all misdemeanors.

The Fairness Campaign regularly protests the annual event and publishes a list of Kentucky Farm Bureau policies that Fairness says are anti-LGBT and anti-union. The Kentucky Farm Bureau is an organization that provides support for farmers and services such as insurance.

The Ham Breakfast is an event at the Kentucky State Fair that includes political speeches and the charity auction of the fair's champion ham.

Trooper Paul Blanton, a spokesman for Kentucky State Police, said officers approached Hartman and others before the breakfast and told them not to disturb the event. The protesters went inside and stood silently once the event began.

"He wanted to go in and disrupt the meeting," Blanton said of Hartman.

Rebecca Grant, who was among the protesters, said the group went inside, sat down at tables and planned to stand up at the same time. She said Hartman stood up and was immediately surrounded by state troopers.

"They pretty much swarmed us," she said. "They were ready to arrest Chris."

Michael Aldridge, executive director of the ACLU of Kentucky, was also involved in the protest. He said the protesters stood silently and waited to be asked to leave. Aldridge said they didn’t want to get arrested.

"They should have given us a warning," he said. "They should have walked up to the table and they should have said, ‘OK guys, we need you to leave,’ but unfortunately that didn’t happen."

Aldridge said lawyers are prepared to fight the charges.

A Kentucky Farm Bureau spokesman could not immediately be reached for comment.

This story will be updated.

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