Abuse of Power: A Twisted Civic Education

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On the afternoon of Saturday, November 25, 2006, we and
other AWARE members Durl Kruse, May Xiong, Don
McClure, David Green and Meg Miner handed out
counter-recruitment pamphlets entitled What Families
Need to Know About Military Recruiting in High Schools and
Colleges at the IHSA state-wide football championships,
where each year the Illinois National Guard recruits.
AWARE (Anti-War Anti-Racism Effort) is a communitywide
organization working to end the war in Iraq and promote
racial justice.
We were distributing flyers developed by the organization
“Grandmothers for Peace” to provide young people
who are considering joining the military with advice and
an alternate viewpoint on military service. We were flyering
on the corner sidewalk and in a parking lot southwest
of Florida Avenue and First Street directly in front of the
National Guard, whose set-up included a trailer, a Hummer,
video games, blaring music and a bright yellow tent.
The recruiters were sitting in chairs in front of the trailer
when we arrived. As soon as we began distributing our
leaflets, they stood up and began passing out their own literature
and freebees such as pencils.
After about 10 minutes, two Champaign Police Department
(CPD) squad cars pulled up. Three CPD officers surrounded
Durl Kruse, demanding he and the two of us
move to the sidewalk. They were not polite or respectful.
Their explanation at the time was that we were not
allowed to distribute flyers because the university parking
lot was private property. The few University Police officers
that were present confirmed that flyering was prohibited
in the parking lot. However, several women were in the
parking lot passing out coupons for Noodles & Co. They
were not told to stop until AWARE asked the University
police about their activity. The recruiters were free to continue
to flyer uninterrupted.
Although it did not stop us from distributing the literature,
our removal altered the statement we wanted to
make. Our purpose was dual: to provide information and
to publicly question the National Guard’s recruiting tactics.
The latter goal was essentially denied because moving
to the sidewalk made our critique less direct. The CPD’s
violation of our freedom of speech and of assembly was
disturbing. Did they have the right to move us? Article 2 of
the Student Code of the University of Illinois-General Policies
and Regulations Section 2-406 Posting and Distribution
of Handout Materials Part C-Distribution states “any individual
may post leaflets, handbill and other types of materials
intended to provide information about sociopolitical
or educational issues and events, without prior approval,
under the following conditions,” and goes on to list locations
and types of materials that fit regulations.
Our handing out literature in the parking lot seemed to
fit those conditions. Not only was distributing flyers at the
IHSA event legal according to university policy, but
AWARE had permission from the University Police to do
so. Randall Cotton, an AWARE member, had spoken earlier
with the University Police and received approval for us
to flyer. When Durl Kruse met with the University Police
on Monday, November 27th, Lt. Roy Acree confirmed that
he had spoken with Mr. Cotton and given his approval.
However, it was not Lt. Acree but Lt. Foster who was on
duty that Saturday and it was possible, Lt. Acree said, that
Foster was not aware of Acree’s conversation with Mr. Cotton.
Lt. Acree also seemed confused that the Champaign
Police Department had intervened in a situation he felt
should have been handled by the University Police. He
admitted there had been a breakdown in communication.
An hour later, Randall Cotton, Durl Kruse and Jan Kruse
met with the CPD. They spoke briefly with Sgt. Scott
Friedlein who stated that the officers were only following
orders. Whose orders? His own, Sgt. Friedlein answered,
made upon the request of Dana Brenner, the number-two
man at the Department of Intercollegiate Athletics (DIA).
Sgt Friedlein had not checked to see if the request was legal.
When Mr. Kruse showed him the Student Code he responded
that he had never seen the document before. He had not
been aware of any permission given to us and he refused to
acknowledge any possibility of a civil rights violation. He
did state that there could have been better communication
between the DIA and the University Police.
On Tuesday, November 28th, Durl and Jan Kruse met
with Mr. Brenner, who after hearing their story maintained
that he, as the university representative in charge of the
event, had the right to move us because we were on university
property. In fact, since UIUC is a public university,
its property is state property and therefore public,
although the University does have the legal authority to
regulate activities if they disrupt the educational environment.
He did not explain why he did not want us to hand
out flyers. Although Mr. Brenner is a UIUC employee, he
did not seem familiar with the Student Code and its policy
on leaflet distribution. He stated he would review the case
and contact the Kruses, but never did, nor did Mr. Brenner
respond to our request for an interview.
Lt. Acree later notified Durl Kruse that the case had been
discussed with the DIA and the CPD and had been forwarded
to the legal department of the University for a ruling.
On December 13th, Lt. Acree called Durl Kruse to
explain the conclusions of these discussions. Acree cited
the following section of Article 2 of the Student Code:
“Certain buildings, due to the nature of the
activities within them, are governed by separate policies.
For those buildings, appropriate restrictions as
to time, place, and manner for distributing materials
may be established by the agency responsible for the
building. These may include, for example, requiring
prior permission to distribute inside the building, or
restricted distribution to designated areas only.”
Comparing the incident at the football tournament to
the University Police’s presence at anti-chief protests, Lt.
Acree stated that they had moved us in order to “protect
the demonstrators.” When the CPD approached us on Saturday,
November 25th, they told us we had to move to the
sidewalk because we could not flyer on private property.
Lt. Acree’s explanation contradicted that. As he pointed
out, the sidewalk is in fact part of university property.
Although Durl Kruse could understand “protection of
the demonstrators” in the case of the anti-chief protesters,
he pointed out to Acree that AWARE was not demonstrating
or holding signs, nor did we feel threatened in any way. Furthermore,
if we were designated a spot for our own sake, we
should have been designated one we agreed to. We would
have liked to be in front of the National Guard and being
removed from them lessened the impact of our actions.
It has been over two months since the incident took place
yet many things remain unclear: should the CPD have
handled the situation or the University Police? Why did
Dana Brenner call for our removal? Most troubling of all,
why was the National Guard allowed to hand out literature
in the parking lot when AWARE was not?
As it turns out, there may be a reason for the National
Guard’s favorable treatment by the police: Mr. Kruse called
IHSA after November 25th and spoke with assistant director
Anthony Holman who revealed that the National Guard
is a sponsor of IHSA. He would give no further information,
explaining that the specifics of IHSA contracts with
sponsors are not public information; only an administrator
of a member school may request it. Principal Kathleen Patton
of IHSA member school Uni High requested the names
of all IHSA sponsors and the amount of money they gave in
mid-December, but never got a response.
Durl Kruse requested an appeal and hearing with the
Committee on the Use of Facilities in early January, but
Dean of Students Bill Riley informed him that this committee
has not existed for a couple of years. The incident
has been forwarded to the chancellor.
We spoke with Vice President of Academic Affairs Larry
Mann on Monday, January 29th. “I find it disappointing
and discouraging that you were asked to leave,” he said of
the incident. While he thought that the University flyering
policy needs to be brought to the attention of the campus,
he stressed that the University policy’s spirit was to
encourage the free expression of differing opinions. The
problem lay in individuals acting outside of that spirit to
make bad calls, but not, he accentuated, malicious calls.
AWARE hopes to get a hearing with an appointed University
committee to have the incident and the policy clarified.
This will be important because it will set a precedent
for possible future controversies about campus flyering.
The incident showcases police incompetence in Champaign-
Urbana. Both Lt. Acree of the University Police and Sgt.
Friedlein of the CPD admitted there was a lack of communication
within and between departments. In addition, the
separate police departments seemed to operate with different
understandings of the laws at different times: the CPD on
November 25th told us we could not flyer on University
property because it was private but that the sidewalk was
okay. The University Police gave us three different, contradictory
statements with regard to flyering at the IHSA event:
that it was entirely permissible, that no one was allowed to
flyer in the parking lot (although they allowed the National
Guard to do so); and that we had been moved not because
flyering was illegal or because university property was private
property, but because they wanted to protect us.
It is clear that there are gray areas in university rules,
but it seems that the CPD and the University Police make
up policies as they go. This is especially disturbing in the
case of the IHSA football tournament because they seem to
have altered policies depending on the group.
If the National Guard was allowed to flyer and to deny
the right of flyering to other groups, then they were, in
effect, buying free speech. Free speech is a civil right held
sacred by the constitution of the United States of America.
To create a system which allows one group free speech while
denying it to another is not only unconstitutional but violates
the ideals this country was based on. For the National
Guard, an institution which is meant to protect the United
States, such an un-American act is truly inappropriate.
This is scarcely the first time the police in Champaign-
Urbana gave orders without sufficient reason. We know it happened in 1990 when several U of I students
and Professor Belden Fields were
arrested for holding signs protesting the
CIA in the Illini Union basement. It happened
again last December when the International
Socialist Organization was prohibited
from distributing flyers in the hallway
of the main library even though they were
not disrupting the traffic flow.
Civilians, especially youth, are not usually
familiar with rules regarding details
such as where one can distribute literature
or the legality of such rules. A civilian
should be able to trust that what the
police say is illegal is in fact so. Yet this
incident is a perfect illustration that the
police are not always clear on the rules
As Alexis de Tocqueville observed in
the 19th century, American democracy
would not survive long if it were not for
the involvement of civic groups. When
police do not feel the need to check their
actions against the laws and rules, rights
are violated and political activity is stifled.
It is crucial to understand the effect this
abuse of police power has on the minds of
youth. It is intimidating, especially to a
generation that has grown up during a
time when the president’s message is ‘dissent
is unpatriotic.’ The police’s rudeness,
power to arrest, and propensity to act
against political activity, regardless of its
legality, discourages political action and
civic responsibility.

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