When Westport gets wild, security guards ban the unruly, but critics say the blackballing goes too far 

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And those are just the ones who are talking.

Caleb Calandro, 27, says he was banned from Westport after a scuffle outside Buzzard Beach in the summer of 2006. Two men, who'd been kicked out of the bar for fighting, jumped Calandro as he exited the bar, he says. He defended himself, he says, and received a face full of mace and a 30-day ban.

Kitty Mitchell, a 27-year-old cocktail waitress, says she probably deserved to be banned in the summer of 2008, given the smartass remarks she slurred at security guards on her way home from Westport. The guards told her that she was banned for 60 days.

Steven Drew, a 46-year-old tattoo artist who works at Westport's Irezumi Body Art, says he found trouble when he stopped to watch police and security guards arrest a man in front of America's Pub. He says he was watching the arrest from the opposite side of the street, "just to make sure nobody violates this guy's rights." He got himself arrested and banned instead.

Aaron Helve, 24, says he was sitting on the curb and getting a woman's phone number after the bars were letting out in June 2008. Security guards told the pair to get moving. Helve got smart, asking the guard whether his mother ironed the military creases into his uniform. Guards followed him as he walked toward his car, parked behind World Market, where they told him to put his hands on a wall as they searched his pockets. After finding nothing illegal, Helve says, the guards told him he was banned for a year.

Anthony Wheeler was banned for a year after trading blows with a friend on a Westport street last October. He returned eight days later and was arrested for trespassing, despite being on what his lawyer contends is — and always has been — public property. Wheeler's first trespassing charge was dismissed. But security guards caught him in Westport again and, he says, literally sat on him until police arrived. He's now facing trespassing charges again.

Troy Tils is the rare lifer. While he was hanging out at Buzzard Beach, Westport security officers learned that he had an outstanding warrant for his arrest, so they told him that he was banned for life, Tils says. Six months later, with his other legal issues sorted out, Tils met with Westport CID officers. They shortened the ban to six months.

The stories continue and, like these, often include people who weren't inside a business or on obviously private property when they were banned. Many of them believed that they were being blackballed from an entire neighborhood.

Their stories have gotten the attention of civil rights lawyers.

"We're talking about private security people trying to ban people from public space, and that's clearly unconstitutional," says Doug Bonney, chief counsel and legal director of the ACLU of Kansas and Western Missouri. "These are public streets."

"It will be interesting to see what they [the Westport CID] have done, that they think makes it private property," Bonney goes on. "Whatever it is, it doesn't work. And we may have to sue them over it."

Don Saxton, Wheeler's lawyer, plans to file a lawsuit against Chesley Brown and the WRBL for violating Wheeler's civil rights. "If it was private property, it'd be different, but it's not," he says. "Westport's security just wants to make you think that it is."


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