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Scuffle breaks out at elementary school over protestor’s sign

<i>KCTV/KSMO</i><br/>Justin Spiehs (right) stands outside the school every morning protesting the school district's mask mandate.
Justin Spiehs (right) stands outside the school every morning protesting the school district's mask mandate.


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    LAWRENCE, Kansas (KCTV, KSMO) — Every day, a demonstrator stands outside Sunset Hills Elementary School, holding up signs protesting the district and county’s mask requirement.

It’s become a familiar part of Matt Hoernicke’s morning. Hoernicke lives across the street from Sunset Hills.

“Day one, an anti mask protestor decided to set up by the school and make sure he got his word out to everyone,” Hoernicke said.

The protestor is Justin Spiehs, an assistant professor at Washburn University. Spiehs protests at Sunset Hills every morning. In the afternoons he stands on the street corner near the Lawrence School District administrative building.

His signs decry masks as dangerous for kids. He is protesting the county and district mask requirements for children.

“The truth will set you free but first it will piss you off,” Spiehs told KCTV5. “The zeitgeist always moves forward. A lot of times we look back at things we did as a society and say ‘What were we doing?'”

Hoernicke said he disagrees with Spiehs’ message and is weary of the protests. But even he was surprised when he saw someone try to take the protestor’s sign on Thursday morning. His security cameras recorded the incident.

“I saw someone get out of the blue car, walk up and grab the signs, throw them out into the street and that seemed to rile Justin up,” he said. “They got out in the middle of the street.”

As the man ran away with the sign, the video shows Spiehs chasing after the man and grabbing it back.

“I was defending myself against someone taking my property and was a threat to my physical well being,” Spiehs explained.

Hoernicke quickly called the police and tried to break up the fight. In the video he shouts “That’s enough!” as Spiehs and the man curse at each other.

“I was 100 percent yelling at both of them,” Hoernicke said.

Lawrence Police said the man who grabbed the signs dropped them and left before officers arrived. They made later made contact with the man and filed an affidavit with the Douglas County Prosecutor. No charges have been filed and no arrests have been made as of Friday evening.

“If they have to resort to that instead of arguing, that means I’m right,” Spiehs said.

Hoernicke said he felt the man who grabbed the signs took the wrong action, though he also wishes Spiehs would pick another place to protest.

“Keep our kids safe, that’s all we’re asking for,” he said. “Voice your concerns, do it in a proper manner and leave our kids alone.”

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