ACLU Lawsuit Filed Against Indiana State Police for Interfering with Death-Penalty Protests at Terre Haute Prison

Affiliate: ACLU of Indiana
August 4, 2020 10:00 am

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INDIANAPOLIS – The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana filed a lawsuit today on behalf of Death Penalty Action, Indiana Abolition Coalition, Providence of Saint-Mary-of-the-Woods Indiana, and individuals who protested and stood vigil in opposition to the July executions at Terre Haute Prison. Indiana State Police (ISP) put significant barriers in place ahead of the executions, forcing demonstrators to protest nearly two miles away from the prison.

Protesters planned to hold vigils at the time of the executions immediately outside the gates of the federal prison in Terre Haute Indiana, but prior to the July executions, ISP erected barricades and closed the roads leading to the prison, forcing protesters to stay almost two miles from the entrance of the prison. The lawsuit claims these restrictions violate the protesters’ First Amendment rights.

The only other option for protesters to get close to the facility, was to be bussed into a fenced-in area on prison grounds. The area would have been far removed from the death chamber and would have required protesters to stay for an unknown amount of time, with little shelter in extreme heat, until the execution occurred.

The lawsuit requests that the U.S. District Court of Southern Indiana enter a preliminary injunction allowing the organizations and individual plaintiffs to engage in protests immediately outside of the main entrance of Terre Haute Prison. The plaintiffs plan to protest at several executions which are scheduled for August and September.

Statement from Ken Falk, legal director at the ACLU of Indiana:

“These restrictions obstruct one of the most fundamental rights protected by the Constitution, political speech. There is absolutely no justification for this overly broad ‘no-protest zone.’ The Indiana State Police are severely compromising protesters’ ability to express themselves and to express their opposition to the death penalty while in sight of the prison.”

Statement from Abraham J. Bonowitz, executive director at Death Penalty Action:

“Donald Trump wants these executions to go forward because he thinks he can use them in his campaign, and he wants to stop people from exercising their First Amendment rights because he can’t stand dissent. It’s all anti-American, and it all must stop.”

Statement from Stephanie Quiring at Indiana Abolition Coalition:

“The Indiana Abolition Coalition seeks to end the death penalty in Indiana and beyond. IAC members have long stood in protest and vigil at execution sites. The US federal government’s decision to resume executions in July, and carry out three over the course of only five days, is abhorrent. Through this lawsuit, IAC joins with other members of our Indiana communities to protect our right to bear witness to these executions and bring attention to the government’s actions behind prison walls.”

The full release with additional plaintiff statements is available here:

The complaint is available here:

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