URBANA (AP) – The University of Illinois is seeking the dismissal of a lawsuit by three students who say their rights to free speech, free press and due process were violated.
Andrew Minik, Joel Valdez and Blair Nelson filed the federal lawsuit in April, the News-Gazette reported. The lawsuit alleges the university issued restraining orders against them because of their conservative political views and prevented them from doing their job.
The students write for the website Campus Reform and were members of the campus conservative group, Turning Point USA.
The students were at a protest against President Donald Trump last year when graduate student Tariq Khan allegedly threw Valdez’s phone on the ground. Nelson filmed the incident, while Minik wrote about it for the Campus Reform, the lawsuit said.
When Khan, 39, appeared in court on a misdemeanor charge of criminal damage to property, an assistant dean, Rony Die, issued no-contact directives to the student journalists. The charge against Khan was dropped after he completed a second-chance program.
The directives banned the students from “observing, reporting or videoing Khan and his activities on campus,” which limited their abilities to report on the situation, according to the lawsuit filed by attorney Whitman Brisky.
But university officials said the order wasn’t based on content and didn’t restrict the students from publishing.
“The targeted restriction in contacting Khan does not prevent plaintiffs from gathering information about him and his activities from other sources and in no way interferes with their right to publish that information,” attorney Charles Schmadeke wrote on behalf of the university.
The order was issued following comments on a news article that called for violence against Khan, Schmadeke said.
Brisky said the posts weren’t an imminent threat that would cause harm and were sarcastic.
Khan has filed a counterclaim that seeks more than $50,000 for “intentional infliction of emotional distress” and hate crimes. He alleges that his contact information was spread online on “sites known to be supported by racists and hate-group supporters.”
Khan declined to comment to the newspaper about the case.
Information from: The News-Gazette, http://www.news-gazette.com