BEECH GROVE, Ind. – The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit against the City of Beech Grove Wednesday on behalf of two women who say their comments were removed from the police department’s Facebook page.
The ACLU is arguing that the deletion of the comments and subsequent blocking of the women from posting in the future is a violation of the First Amendment.
The ACLU says Kymberly Quick and Deborah Mays-Miller’s posts, which sometimes posed questions to the police department, may have been perceived as critical of the city and police.
“When a government entity opens up a space for public comment, it cannot regulate those comments based upon someone’s viewpoint,” said Jan Mensz, ACLU of Indiana staff attorney. “By giving itself unbridled discretion to determine what comments it deems acceptable, the City of Beech Grove has put all public speech on its social media sites at risk of further censorship.”
Craig Wiley, an attorney for the City of Beech Grove, says some of Quick and Mays-Miller’s posts were not related to crime activity or public concern, which is what the page is dedicated to. Those posts were taken down by the page’s administrator.
“The city’s position is that citizens certainly have the constitutional right to criticize their government, but in a limited form,” said Wiley.
Wiley says the city has the right to limit the page to the issue of crime and that there are other avenues for citizens to take their unrelated posts.
“There are several other Facebook sites where citizens of Beech Grove comment on other issues throughout the community. We believe we have, in this instance, the right to limit their speech,” said Wiley.