ACLU Sues Indiana University Over Alleged First Amendment Violations

Staff report

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — May 3, 2024

The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana has taken legal action against Indiana University, alleging a violation of First Amendment rights in response to the university’s imposition of one-year bans on three individuals involved in political protests on the IU-Bloomington campus.

The lawsuit, filed this morning, asserts that the bans, issued by the IU Police Department, constitute an unlawful prior restraint on the free speech rights of the plaintiffs, who seek to reengage in ongoing campus protests. The ACLU’s complaint names Jasper Wirtshafter, a Bloomington resident, Dr. Benjamin Robinson, a tenured IU-Bloomington professor, and Madeleine Meldrum, a graduate student at IU-Bloomington, as plaintiffs.

At the heart of the matter are recent arrests made during pro-Palestinian demonstrations held in Dunn Meadow, IU-Bloomington’s designated free speech area. According to reports, at least 56 individuals have been detained in connection with these protests over the past week.

In a statement issued by ACLU of Indiana Legal Director Ken Falk, he emphasized the historical significance of Dunn Meadow as a public forum for First Amendment expression since 1969. Falk asserted that Indiana University’s prohibition on individuals entering Dunn Meadow for extended periods constitutes an unconstitutional prior restraint on free speech.

“The university cannot preemptively curtail individuals’ participation in protected expression by imposing lengthy bans from Dunn Meadow,” Falk stated. “Such actions deny individuals their future ability to engage in speech activities, constituting a clear violation of constitutional rights.”

The lawsuit seeks the dismissal of the one-year bans, enabling the plaintiffs to participate in current and future protests on campus. The ACLU of Indiana provided a link to the full complaint for further reference.

Indiana University officials have yet to publicly comment on the lawsuit or the allegations made by the ACLU.

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