Des Moines, Iowa — A federal district court today ruled that the state can't enforce its ban of five Des Moines BLM protesters from the Iowa Capitol Complex grounds.
The court issued a preliminary injunction, saying the ban, started this summer by the Iowa State Patrol officers, is likely to violate the activists’ First Amendment rights. That's because the ban restricts all "expressive activity" at the Iowa State Capitol, which is a traditional public forum—a place where Iowans have traditionally gathered to engage in protected free speech.
The lawsuit, filed by the ACLU of Iowa, seeks to invalidate the bans permanently. It also seeks damages. The lawsuit challenges the Iowa State Patrol’s verbal and written bans of Haley Jo Dikkers, Brad Penna, and Brandi Ramus from the Iowa Capitol Complex grounds for 6 months and of Jalesha Johnson and Louise Bequeaith for 1 year.
This court recognized that the State Capitol is a unique and special place for peaceful assembly and protest, allowing protesters to reach an audience of state policymakers and their fellow Iowans. On p. 19 it stated, "By its nature, the Iowa Capitol is the only forum of its kind within the State of Iowa. While there are other public parks, there is no alternative forum comparable to the Capitol Complex."
ACLU of Iowa Legal Director Rita Bettis Austen, said, "Today's preliminary injunction order prohibits the state from enforcing its ban of our clients from the State Capitol, meaning that they are free to engage in protected expressive activity there once again as we continue to litigate our case. The court found that we are likely to succeed on our claim that the bans violate the First Amendment because they prohibit our clients from exercising their Constitutional right to free speech in a traditional public forum—the State Capitol.
Bettis Austen added, "The Capitol Complex is a uniquely important place for Iowans to exercise their free speech, which today's Order recognizes. We are grateful to the court and relieved that our clients will be able to engage in their right to nonviolent speech and assembly at their State Capitol once again while we move ahead in this litigation."