Veteran Wins Right to Protest on Monument Circle

Affiliate: ACLU of Indiana
February 4, 2014 12:00 am

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U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit Reverses Lower Court Decision

February 4, 2014

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Indianapolis – A war veteran who brought his young son to Indianapolis to protest on Monument Circle has won a reversal on his case in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit.

In a unanimous decision today, the Court found that the lower court should enter a preliminary injunction preventing the Indiana War Memorials Commission from enforcing its policy that can require individuals or small groups of protesters to obtain a permit to demonstrate on the grounds of the

Soldiers and Sailors Monument and other properties controlled by the Commission. These properties include University Park, the American Legion Mall, and Veterans Memorial Plaza.

The case was brought by the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana on behalf of Eric Smith, a war veteran who, accompanied only by his young son, was denied the ability to protest at the Monument because he did not have a permit. In finding that Mr. Smith was reasonably likely to show that the Commission’s permit policy was unconstitutional, and that he was therefore entitled to an order stopping the policy from being enforced pending final resolution of the case, the Court stressed that the permit policy currently in effect did not appear to be narrowly tailored to meet a significant government interest. The Court also found that the policy allowed Commission staff too much “unbridled discretion” concerning permitting decisions and that such a system can invite abuse because it is not “contentneutral.”

ACLU of Indiana Legal Director Kenneth Falk, who represented Mr. Smith, said, “One of the great freedoms given to us by the First Amendment is the ability for people to go to public places, like Monument Circle, parks and other public spaces and engage in peaceful assembly and protest free of unnecessary restrictions.”

Jane Henegar, ACLU of Indiana Executive Director said, “Our success in obtaining an injunction in this case illustrates how 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 decision, Smith v. Indiana War Memorials Commission, No. 13-1939, was entered on Feb. 4, 2014 in the U. S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. It was filed Oct. 1, 2012 in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana under cause number 1:12-cv-1402 WTL-DML.

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