STUDENT JOURNALISTS SUE UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS


URBANA, Ill—Today three University of Illinois student-journalists filed a federal lawsuit against university officials and an instructor for violating their constitutional rights to free press, free speech, and due process. The suit comes after the school punished the students for reporting on a campus anti-Trump rally co-organized by the Black Rose Anarchist group in November 2017. During the rally, Black Rose spokesman and university instructor, Tariq Khan, assaulted Joel Valdez and also went after student Blair Nelson who was video-recording the event. Co-plaintiff Andrew Minik, who was not at the event, reported on the incident for Campus Reform, a college news organization.

Rather than see the students as victims, however; the university issued them restraining orders to prevent them from reporting on Tariq Khan. Minik was also issued a restraining order even though he had only written about Khan’s assault. “I was told that if I wanted the ‘situation to improve’ that I should stop writing about Khan,” said Andrew Minik, a senior at the university.

With the unconstitutional restraining orders in place, Khan began using them as a sword to go after the students by reporting them for allegedly violating the orders whenever he or his wife was in the same place with one of them on campus. “No student should be under school surveillance and discipline for reporting on violent anarchist groups on campus,” said Joel Valdez.

The lawsuit was filed in the Central District Court of Illinois and seeks to vindicate the students’ constitutional rights as well as civil damages for Khan’s assault and destruction of Valdez’s cell phone. “The First Amendment should not be a partisan issue or something only conservatives are willing to defend,” said Noel Sterett, the students’ legal counsel from the law firm Mauck & Baker, LLC in Chicago.

Nelson, Valdez, and Minik have had their education disrupted as a result of having to deal with these restraining orders and defend against these false charges.

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