Ivette Salazar was detained, prevented from handing out flyers that said, ‘Shut Down Capitalism!’…
(Joshua Paladino, Liberty Headlines) A socialist student has filed a lawsuit against an Illinois college for violating her free speech rights.
Joliet Junior College said student Ivette Salazar violated the campus’ speech codes by distributing political flyers outside of the school’s “free speech area.”
Salazar said JJC’s actions violated her First Amendment rights, so with the help of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), she is challenging the college’s policy.
Campus police at JJC detained Salazar for exercising those rights without pre-approval from the administration.
The school’s regulations restrict free speech to one indoor area of campus and allow only two students to use the space at a time.
Students must receive approval from the administration by submitting a request to use the free speech area five days in advance.
Students also have to disclose the nature of their speech and receive approval to distribute literature.
The incident occurred on Nov. 28, when Salazar noticed conservative students handing out anti-socialism pamphlets.
In response, she decided to distribute handouts from the Party for Socialism and Liberation that read “Shut Down Capitalism!”
JCC police then detained Salazar and questioned her for 40 minutes before confiscating the flyers, according to the complaint filed by FIRE.
Salazar reported that a police officer told her, “If you want to go ahead and post your flyers and burn your crosses, you have to get it approved.”
The administration said the political flyers were inappropriate due to the “political climate of the country,” FIRE said in a press release.
A group focused on promoting freedom of thought and expression on college campuses, FIRE said the “political climate” cannot determine the extent of First Amendment rights.
“Debating the merits of economic and governmental systems is core political speech,” said FIRE Director of Litigation Marieke Tuthill Beck-Coon. “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.”
Salazar’s case is one part of FIRE’s “Million Voices Campaign,” which seeks to free one million students from unconstitutional speech codes on college campuses.
So far FIRE has won nine cases and changed campus policies affecting 600,000 students.
“I should be able to express my political beliefs on campus without being detained,” Salazar said. “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 has also sued JJC for allegedly violating her Fourth Amendment rights by unlawfully detaining her.
Former President of the First Amendment Lawyers Association Wayne Giampietro joined to assist Salazar’s case.
“A public college should be teaching its students the existence and value of the freedoms protected by our federal and state constitutions, not violating those freedoms,” Giampietro said. “The First Amendment protects our most cherished right to speak freely on political matters.
“It is deplorable that public school employees, paid with our tax money, would detain, interrogate, and seize political materials from a student who is attempting to exercise that right.”