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LAWSUIT: Public college threatened to arrest conservatives exercising First Amendment rights

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Campus Reform
September 10, 2019

A free speech nonprofit organization is suing a Mississippi community college after campus police stopped students from tabling on campus and even took them into a police station.

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) is suing Jones County Junior College because of a policythat requires groups to fill out paperwork before “gathering for any purpose” on campus, according to a news release.

The policy became an issue when Jones County Junior College student Mike Brown and other Young Americans for Liberty (YAL) activists polled students on campus in April to see if they support the legalization of recreational marijuana. However, according to FIRE, the YAL members were quickly stopped by campus police, all because paperwork was not filled out before the event.

The campus police even took Brown into the station, according to the lawsuit.

When Brown asked the campus police officer what policy they violated, she replied: “That’s illegal, first of all, and you’re on a school campus.”

According to the lawsuit, Stan Livingston, chief of campus police, told Brown that he was “smarter than that [violating the policy].”

“Some people get in trouble for smoking weed, but at Jones College, I got in trouble just for trying to talk about it,” Brown said, according to FIRE. “College is for cultivating thought and learning and encouraging civil discourse with your peers. That’s not what’s happening at Jones College.”

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This was not the first time Brown had been reprimanded over his alleged violations of the campus speech policies.

In February, according to FIRE, Brown and YAL staffer Mitch Strider tried to bring on campus a “free speech ball” onto which students can write anything they want while talking with coordinators about free speech.

The community college told them that they could not be on campus without prior administrative approval. JCJC also told individuals with whom Brown was tabling to leave campus, threatening arrest.

Strider, who was with Brown at the free speech ball event, spoke with Campus Reform about the situation at the school.

“I believe JCJC’s speech policy is unconstitutional because as a public institution of higher learning, JCJC is obligated to uphold civil liberties protected by the Bill of Rights,” Strider said. “This has long been precedent in case law.”

When the administration at the college asked the two to leave campus while hosting the free speech ball event, Strider said he was “disappointed but not surprised.”

“The administration has long promoted a ‘nanny state’ type atmosphere on campus, which is comical [given] that many of the students that attend community colleges are older and more mature than the students at universities where you are granted far more freedom in most every regard,” Strider said.

Campus Reform reached out to Jones County Community College but did not receive a response in time for publication.

This article was posted: Tuesday, September 10, 2019 at 5:26 am

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