Iraq vet sues for right to protest on Monument Circle after being told he needed permit

Ind. War Memorial rules include no loitering

INDIANAPOLIS - A Hoosier veteran has filed a federal lawsuit fighting for his right to protest in the heart of the city.

Eric Smith is looking forward to earning his college degree, but it's the third degree the disabled veteran received on Monument Circle that's behind his federal lawsuit.

"It made me distraught, because I served our country to protect these freedoms, but in a quick second I was told my freedoms don't matter," Eric Smith said.

Smith took his 10-year-old son to the monument on July 26 to protest a United Nations proposal he believed could have an impact on the Second Amendment right to bear arms in the U.S.

The retired National Guardsman, who served in Iraq in 2008, said state police asked him to take his protest across the street on city property before they forced him off of the state-controlled site.

"I had a copy of the Constitution with me, and I said, 'Do you want to go over the First Amendment?' and they jokingly said no. And I was like, 'So if I don't leave, what will happen?' (They said,) 'We will take you to jail.'"

The Indiana War Memorial Commission has rules and regulations about conduct at all monuments, including no loitering and no littering.

The Commission also requires permits on all activities occurring at the monuments.
   
The fee for a permit depends on the size of the event and how much space will be used.
   
The group said it could not respond to the allegations because of the pending lawsuit.

"This concerns the right that we all have to engage in expressive activity in public spaces," said Smith's attorney Ken Falk, with the American Civil Liberties Union. "The idea that somehow the government has the right to say you have to give us 30 days' notice, you have to do x, y and z, that runs completely opposite of what the First Amendment stands for."

A hearing has not been set on the case.

A state police spokesperson declined to comment because of the pending federal lawsuit.
 

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