A Victory For Free Speech

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In the February issue of
the Public i, Shara Esbenshade
and Cody Bralts
wrote about police abuse
of power in an incident
last year. In November, 2006, the Champaign
Police Department was called by
Dana Brenner, the associate director of athletics
at the Department of Intercollegiate
Atheletics (DIA), to the scene of the Illinois
High School Association’s (IHSA) statewide
high school football championships to stop
community members from handing out
flyers. Members of AWARE, the Anti-War
Anti-Racism Effort, were passing out literature
about military recruiting and the
importance of getting recruiters’ promises
in writing. They were flyering in front of
the Illinois National Guard’s set-up in Tent
City, and although they had previously
attained permission from the University
Police to do so, and had done so the year
before without incident, on Saturday,
November 25, the Champaign Police
Department (CPD) forced them to move
away from the National Guard to flyer.
AWARE members Durl Kruse, Jan
Kruse, Cody Bralts, and Shara Esbenshade
pursued meetings with the police departments
and the university to find out why
their freedom of speech had been violated
in this way. The University of Illinois’ Student
Code allows for flyering on University
Property. In March, AWARE finally got a
response from the University concerning
its request for an appeal hearing. Chancellor
Richard Herman’s conclusion after
reviewing the case was great news for those
concerned about local civil rights. His written
letter to Durl Kruse stated:
“Dean Riley has assisted me in reviewing
the circumstances of this interaction,
and spoken with the principal parties
involved. It is my opinion that you were
inappropriately restricted from distributing
your flyers on this day. The campus policy,
as you have partially cited, would allow
you to do so, unless there were appropriate
time, place, or manner restrictions that
required restriction or limitation of this
distribution. I am not persuaded that limitations
were necessary at this time.”
He then went on to explain that the
police and Memorial Stadium staff would
be educated about these rules and policies,
advised us to continue to communicate
with the police about flyering activities,
and reassured us that the University policy’s
purpose was to provide an environment
that encourages free speech. Chancellor
Herman had thus denounced Dana
Brenner’s actions as counter to the spirit of
the U of I. We still do not know why Dana
Brenner wanted us removed, but Anthony
Holman, assistant executive director of
IHSA, told Uni High principal Kathleen
Patton that it was the DIA that arranged for
the National Guard’s presence at Tent City.
This raises questions about whether Dana
Brenner was acting on behalf of the
National Guard. We have tried repeatedly
to schedule a meeting with Dana Brenner
but he has stated that the University Police
would speak for the University in this matter
and recently he has completely ignored
our requests.
Chancellor Herman’s letter will hopefully
ensure that such a violation of our freedom
of speech does not happen again.
However, there are still unanswered questions.
The National Guard was allowed to
continue to distribute things in an area we
were prohibited on that day. We will continue
to pursue our concerns about Dana
Brenner’s motives and why the National
Guard received this privileged treatment.

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