ACLU files lawsuit against IU over Dunn Meadow protests

BLOOMINGTON— The ACLU of Indiana filed a lawsuit against Indiana University on Friday, claiming that the university violated protestors’ First Amendment rights.

The lawsuit names three plaintiffs: IU Associate Professor of Germanic Studies Dr. Benjamin Roberson, a graduate student named Madeleine Meldrum, and Bloomington resident Jasper Wirtshafter.

The lawsuit states: The plaintiffs, all of whom have received no-trespass orders, have suffered and continue to suffer a violation of their First Amendment rights. Declaratory and injunctive relief must be entered to remedy this obvious constitutional problem, and the plaintiffs should be awarded their damages.

According to the lawsuit, Robinson was arrested on April 25 and trespassed from IU property for one year. Robinson filed an appeal to the no-trespass order and was granted a stay while the appeal was pending. However, due to the no-trespass order, he could not return to Dunn Meadows to protect on April 26, 27, 28, and 29.

Meldrum was also arrested on April 25 and trespassed from IU property for one year. Meldrum is currently attending IU and will be in the fall of 2024. She is scheduled to work as a research assistant this summer on the Bloomington campus of Indiana University. The no-trespass order bars her from Indiana University property for one year. She appealed that order, but as of the time of the filing of this complaint, she has not been notified that the no-trespass order has been stayed

Wirtshafter participated in the demonstration on Dunn Meadow concerning the Gaza war. He was arrested on April 27 and trespassed from the IU property for one year. Wirtshafter requested an appeal and a stay on the no-trespass order. The appeal is pending, but the stay has been denied. Wirtshafer has not been able to return to Dunn Meadow to continue participating in the ongoing demonstrations. He wishes to be able to return to participate in the demonstrations.

According to the lawsuit, Under the Policy, the Trustees of Indiana University designated Dunn Meadow “a a public forum for expression on all subjects.” Since that time, Dunn Meadow has been the location of numerous protests, demonstrations, and other First Amendment expression on a wide variety of issues. Although the Policy states “that students, staff and faculty of the University may express any point of view on any subject” in Dunn Meadow, the use of the area as a public forum for free expression has never been limited to the University community and persons from the Bloomington area not associated with the University have frequently participated in expressive activities and demonstrations in Dunn Meadow.

All three seek a permanent injunction allowing them to return to Dunn Meadow to engage in activities protected by the First Amendment. They also want compensatory and nominal damages as appropriate, attorney fees, and all other proper relief.