Disabled Veteran Sues for Right to Protest

Affiliate: ACLU of Indiana
October 2, 2012 9:57 am

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Indianapolis – A disabled veteran who brought his 10 year-old son to Monument Circle to protest an action he believed would violate his Second Amendment rights brought suit against the State of Indiana yesterday in federal court.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana filed a lawsuit on behalf of Eric Smith against the Indiana War Memorials Commission and the Indiana State Police officers who threatened to arrest him for exercising his First Amendment right to protest without a state permit. The suit challenges the Commission’s policy requiring a permit for even small numbers of people to engage in expressive activity on state property.

“The right of people to engage in free expression on public property, which is not disruptive, is protected by the First Amendment,” said ACLU of Indiana Legal Director Ken Falk. “Our client was not endangering others or committing unlawful actions, but attempted to use this highly visible public gathering space to express his views and to teach his son about the need to exercise fundamental freedoms.”

Smith, from Lebanon, Ind., traveled to the Soldiers and Sailors Monument in July bearing several signs that expressed his opposition to the United Nations Arms Trade Treaty, believing that the proposed treaty threatened his Second Amendment rights. State officials told Smith he would be arrested if he did not leave the public space because he did not have a state permit allowing him to protest.

Jane Henegar, ACLU of Indiana Executive Director said, “This most recent example of government overreach illustrates why the ACLU is indispensable in protecting rights for all. Hundreds of thousands of individuals visit Monument Circle every year. Requiring every single person, much less a veteran who has fought to protect our liberties, to apply for a permit to carry a protest sign is an unnecessary burden on the First Amendment.”

The suit, Smith v. Indiana War Memorials Commission, which seeks injunctive and declaratory relief and damages, was filed in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Indiana under cause number 1:12-cv-1402 WTL-DML.

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