ACLU of Indiana Defends Man Arrested for Protesting Vice President's Appearance at Fundraiser

Affiliate: ACLU of Indiana
January 10, 2003 12:00 am

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ACLU of Indiana
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INDIANAPOLIS -The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana today filed a lawsuit on behalf of a local man whose free speech rights were violated when police arrested him for protesting Vice President Richard Cheney’s appearance at an area fundraiser.

According to ACLU legal papers, John Blair was arrested at a rally on February 6 of last year for carrying a sign that read, “Cheney – 19th Century Energy Man.” Blair, a well-known environmental protester, lives in Evansville, a town of 120,000 located three hours southwest of Indianapolis.

“What happened to John Blair should not happen in a free country,” said John Krull, Executive Director of the ACLU of Indiana. “When police officers are given the power to arbitrarily waive or ignore a citizen’s First Amendment rights, we no longer really have a First Amendment. The freedom to speak one’s mind about the government is one of the things that makes this country special, and it must be defended.”

An Evansville police officer arrested Blair for violating a “public safety order.” According to ACLU attorneys, Blair was taken into custody even though he had done nothing other than hold the sign and despite the fact that there were many other people on the sidewalk who were not asked to move and who were not arrested.

The charges against Blair were dropped two weeks after his arrest, but the City of Evansville has thus far refused to acknowledge that it had no right to ignore or waive Blair’s constitutional rights.

The case, John Blair v. City of Evansville, has been filed in federal court. No trial date has been set.

The ACLU legal complaint is online at /node/34974

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