Veteran activist Clay Chastain, best known for his light rail advocacy, has filed suit against the City of Kansas City, Missouri, for defamation. In the suit Chastain claims the city “maliciously and falsely profiled Chastain as being possibly dangerous and capable of committing an act of violence, or a terrorist attack, against City Hall or someone at City Hall.”
Chastain’s case is compelling. Over the years he has had to make numerous trips to City Hall to file petitions for his various efforts. He claims that during the six-plus years of Sly James’s tenure as mayor, security has repeatedly stopped and frisked him. They have also made him wait for armed guards to escort him to his destination, even when he’s been accompanied by his 11-year-old daughter.
Chastain endured the harassment until June 11, 2017. It was on that day he learned that the actions of City Hall security were not random. “When I asked security why I was being detained, unduly searched and required an armed security guard,” Chastain told the Sentinel, “they told me my name was on the City’s ‘Watch List,’ of which they had a copy.”
Chastain continued, “I asked what is a ‘Watch List’? They told me it was a list the City had compiled and given to security for people the City deemed ‘possibly dangerous.'”
On this occasion, Chastain arrived with his daughter and a friend to turn in light rail petitions. When stopped, he protested “vigorously.” Channel 9 News Reporter Michael Mahoney was there to cover the activist turning in his petitions and got more than he bargained for. According to the suit, when security tried to stop Mahoney from recording, Mahoney said, “Don’t try that on me. This is a public building.”
Eventually, two armed security guards escorted Chastain to the City Clerk’s office. With the camera recording, Chastain told Mahoney that the purpose of the harassment was “to intimidate me and make the people at City Hall and on TV think Clay Chastain is dangerous.” Again, according to the suit, “An unnamed city official verified to Mahoney that Chastain was on the City’s (published) ‘Watch List’ for individuals the City deemed dangerous.”
Three days later Chastain returned to City Hall to pick up his petitions. He was detained again for 20 minutes before two armed guards arrived to escort him to the City Clerk. Still accompanied by the guards, he went first to the chief of security and asked to have his name removed from the Watch List. The chief refused his request. Later the same day, the city attorney refused to even discuss the issue.
Approximately two hours after leaving City Hall, Chastain received a call from the head of security, telling him his name had been removed from the Watch List. He offered, however, no apology or explanation as to why for five years he had been among those “deemed dangerous.” As Chastain accurately observed, he “had no history of being violent or making violent threats.”
The veteran activist is asking for compensatory damages in the amount of $1 million and punitive damages in the amount of $2 million. If it were not for the fact that taxpayers would be the ones doing the compensating, one might hope he would get it.