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Fairness Leader Arrested At State Fair Heads To Court Thursday

kyfb protest2

A Louisville gay rights leader will appear in court Thursday morning after being arrested while protesting the Kentucky Farm Bureau's policies at this year’s state fair.

The Fairness Campaign’s Chris Hartman, as well as Carla Wallace and Sonja de Vries, face misdemeanor charges for standing up in protest at a breakfast event at the fair in August. They were protesting what they called discriminatory policies of the farm bureau, including its formal opposition to same-sex marriage and domestic partner benefits.

Hartman, Fairness' executive director, faces charges of disorderly conduct and failure to disperse. Wallace and de Vries face charges of failure to disperse.

Hartman and his attorneys, who are associated with the ACLU of Kentucky, argue police acted improperly that day. Kentucky State Police have said the protesters were there to create a disturbance and to get arrested.

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 in August.

But Hartman maintains police didn’t give the protesters enough time to comply with their orders.

“We certainly don’t feel that we were arrested legally,” he said.

Hartman said he is interested in hearing the prosecution’s case, which he said he hopes will be thrown out.

“I don’t believe that they will be able to prove the standard to be guilty of those charges,” he said. “You really have to be creating a disturbance that makes people fear for their safety.”

If Hartman’s charges are dismissed, Wallace and de Vries will also no longer face charges. The maximum penalty for the Class B misdemeanors is a $250 fine.