A free speech nonprofit sued an Illinois college Thursday after being detained for handing out flyers reading “shut down capitalism.”
The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) sued Joliet Junior College after campus police detained student Ivette Salazar when she tried passing out the flyers, according to a press release obtained by The Daily Caller News Foundation.
Salazar tried passing out flyers from the Party for Socialism and Liberation after seeing conservative students passing out anti-socialism paraphernalia. But Joliet Junior College (JCC) police detained her for around 40 minutes, interrogated her, and told her the “political climate of the country” meant she could not distribute her materials.
“I should be able to express my political beliefs on campus without being detained,” Salazar said in the press release. “JCC didn’t just threaten my freedom of speech, but the freedom of speech of every student on that campus. If we can’t have political discussions on a college campus, then where can we have them?”
Salazar and FIRE dispute the constitutionality of the “Free Speech Area” policy at JJC, which limits expressive activity to a small, indoor place on campus, makes students request the place five business days before using it, and requires a setup involving a maximum of two students who stay behind a table.
Salazar also claims that JJC illegally detained her, infringing on her Fourth Amendment rights.
“Debating the merits of economic and governmental systems is core political speech,” said Marieke Tuthill Beck-Coon, FIRE’s director of litigation. “Campus police got it backward: The current ‘political climate’ is a reason for more speech, not censorship. If tense political times justified restricting political speech, the First Amendment would be pointless.”
“The policies of Joliet Junior College promote and nurture open and accessible dialogue of ideas on campus,” said Kelly Rohder-Tonelli, a spokeswoman for the school. “These policies not only support a culture of free speech, but ensure that the college maintains a campus environment accepting of such a dialogue in the process. The college believes these policies appropriately balance these tenets and interests of all involved.”
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