State Police at IU Protests

The Libertarian Party of Monroe County has long championed the position that freedom does not just belong to whom we agree with but to all peaceful people. Defending someone’s right of autonomy, to conduct themselves the way they see fit, doesn’t mean you have to condone the actions or statements of that individual. It just means that you believe all people have a right to be heard, to be seen, and to speak their truth, provided they do not violate the nonaggression principle. This is a fundamental value of our party.

We are witnessing that notion disappear. It is being rapidly replaced with hyper-tribalism. The lies they tell us are that it must be us versus them. The hey man, you are either with us or against us attitude. The deeply partisan mentality that one side has all the answers, and the other side has none. No compromises. The implication that there is something wrong with people when they don’t agree with your perspective. This is always driven into a fever pitch during presidential election years, but for whatever reason it seems that much stronger now. As Bloomington residents we do not have to look to national news to see this play out. We get to watch this happen in our own backyard.

What happened in Dunn Meadow on Thursday April 25th and again on Saturday the 27th was an outrageous overreach by Indiana University and the Indiana State Police. In a preemptive move to prevent “an encampment,” IU decided to overturn an over 50-year policy of allowing temporary structures during protests at Dunn Meadow. The ink was barely dry on this new ordinance on Thursday afternoon when the administration used this violation as the pretext needed to order a fully militarized police response, including riot gear and snipers. This large police force was mobilized and ready before the beginning of the protest, as if the administration had already anticipated there would be resistance to this newly changed rule. The ordinance enacted, “for the safety of the students”, needed a militarized police response to enforce it. Hmm. One could argue that the safest thing would be to have taken the previous approach to such encampments at this very location, allowed it to continue if it was peaceful and was not destructive towards the meadow.

State police demanded that the protesters remove their temporary structures. Some protesters complied, others did not. At that point the state police and IU administration decided that the time for de-escalation had ended. They moved forward forcibly removing protesters and any structures. State police took into custody more than fifty protesters. Again, on Saturday the state police came in and arrested more than twenty people for “adding to the encampment”. Reports and video from both protests show an overzealous amount of force used against peaceful protesters.

President Whitten doubled down on her use of the large, militarized police force in a written statement in which she cites the age-old trope of an outside instigator. The need to act was to prevent “a national movement on numerous college campuses to erect encampments and occupy universities indefinitely.” She holds up as additional justification the flimsy 1969 prohibition of tents past 11 PM. Interestingly enough, it is the same ordinance the city uses whenever they feel it is time to remove any of the homeless encampments around town. Once again, we see an instance where the law is weaponized, being enforced against a certain group of people only when the city deems it necessary. Like when IU parents come to drop off the kids or outside political guests are coming to town.

ISP Superintendent Doug Carter said that troopers got involved breaking up the protests because free speech was turning into hateful speech and “the First Amendment covers free speech but not hateful speech.”

To summarize, the two people in charge of the response believe that it is acceptable to preemptively remove someone’s First Amendment right to prevent possible violations of the rules. It’s okay to arbitrarily change and enforce rules to disadvantage the use of someone’s First Amendment right. Any speech deemed hateful is not protected under the First Amendment and therefore should be shut down. We here at the LPMC find that more frightening than the best Stephen King novel.

As libertarians we do not agree with lawlessness, we do not condone violence or destruction of property. However, we also recognize when the law has been weaponized to disadvantage certain groups or prevent them from exercising their rights. As it certainly seems in this situation. We stand in solidarity with all the protesters. The right to peacefully protest is a cornerstone of our society. We cannot allow it to be dismantled by an authoritative, fear-mongering administration and police force.

As libertarians, we recognize that rights don’t just belong with people personally we agree with, but with all people. When the authority strips the First Amendment right away from a certain group, and other people sit quiet solely because they do not agree with the cause, we error greatly. It is the beginning of the end for the great experiment known as American Democracy. You might feel the world is a better place when you silence the voices you oppose, but it’s simply not true. A dangerous precedent is set when we allow this kind of suppression. The world needs civil debate and perspectives from all sides. People should be free to exercise their opinion, and to protest injustice where they find it.

As libertarians we know that all war is abhorrent, not just this war but every war. If you ask us which side we are on, it’s a pretty simple answer: we’re on the side of the people. Not their governments, not their leaders, but just the people. Every person deserves to be free, to live the life they want, unmolested by the government or their neighbors.


In Liberty,

Sydney Bloom, Chair
Libertarian Party of Monroe County

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