ACLU files First Amendment lawsuit against state on behalf of activist Melissa Hill

Categories: Law
melissa hill mug.jpg
Hill was detained and trespassed for sidewalk chalking. The ACLU argues the incident violated her constitutional rights.
With the help of some legal heavy-hitters, Melissa Hill hopes to make the Federal Protective Services, state of Minnesota, and city of Minneapolis pay for her sidewalk chalking-related June arrest.

Hill was detained and issued a trespass order for "damaging public property" while inscribing an anti-war message onto a sidewalk in front of the Federal Reserve Building. Today, the ACLU and attorneys from Dorsey & Whitney filed a lawsuit alleging the incident violated her First, Fourth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights.

Said ACLU-Minnesota Executive Director Charles Samuelson: "This is a classic example of overreach of law enforcement. Ms. Hill was simply exercising her freedom of speech when she was subject to harassment and punishment by the law enforcement agencies involved in this matter."

Hill, 33, was walking to work last June when she noticed a sidewalk chalk message that had once read "Resist, Don't Enlist" had been altered so as to only read "Enlist." She stopped to try and restore the original message, but was interrupted when FPS and police officers handcuffed, detained, searched, and questioned her.
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Hil, shown here following an October arrest.


After being detained, she was issued a trespass notice banning her from Federal Building property for a year. As an ACLU press release puts it, "If Hill decides to exercise her First Amendment rights in public in the vicinity of the Federal Building she would be arrested and face a fine and/or imprisonment."

Law enforcement justified Hill's detention by saying she was damaging public property with the chalk, but she was never charged with a crime. Teresa Nelson, legal counsel for the ACLU, said she thinks it's interesting law enforcement officials had no objection to the sidewalk chalk when it read "Enlist," but felt compelled to stop Hill when she tried to restore the original anti-war message.

According to the ACLU, the complaint states that the defendants acted unlawfully by detaining Hill without probable cause and by issuing a trespass notice against her without legal justification. Hill is asking for undisclosed damages and a declaration that the trespass ordinances under which she was detained are unconstitutional.

Hill filed a separate trespassing-related lawsuit against Hennepin County Sheriff Richard Stanek following an October arrest during Occupy MN demonstrations. In January, she settled that lawsuit for $15,000.

Related coverage:
-- Melissa Hill settles lawsuit against Sheriff Richard Stanek for $15,000
-- Occupy MN: Melissa Hill sues Sheriff Richard Stanek over trespassing arrest
-- Occupy MN: Melissa Hill arrested by Hennepin County Sheriff's deputies [VIDEO]
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12 comments
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Redwoodhippie
Redwoodhippie

When I grew up I was taught about free speech and freedom of assembly and the citizen's rights and obligations to help create a healthy society. As I grew older I realized behind the scenes those with money and influence abused their positions as they did not absorb or appreciate the important and historic value of our Bill of Rights. Again I say peace and hugs and civil liberties for all.

Redwoodhippie
Redwoodhippie

Melissa Hill is a sensitive, positive, caring person who does not want our country to continue to abuse people, cultures, or Mother Earth. She is the kind of person whom I am pleased to have as a friend and whom I will walk beside any day. Police and those who command them should go back and review the history of people attaining civil liberties and should realize if they keep trampling on others rights they soon will find themselves without rights also.  Peace and hugs and civil liberties for all. 

Jojo
Jojo

Go Melissa! Who has a job, but whose real job is reminding us all that we need to push back against the repressive system/state!Booooo Jody!!

Doug
Doug

@Jody Are you assuming she has no job and is collecting welfare? and we do have our First amendment rights , I bet you would do the same if you got arrested for saying what you believe in. This is about protecting our rights as American citizen

@Jody:disqus  

Doug
Doug

Maybe I should of ready the story first before I comment, She does has a job and can I assume she is not on welfare to then

ludwigtr
ludwigtr

While I agree that this woman shouldn't have been arrested for protesting, and shouldn't have been disallowed to return to the plaza...  I thought this was settled with the police department and they paid out a settlement.

Jody
Jody

Maybe Ms. Hill has too much time on her hands.  Instead of writing messages with chalk on a sidewalk, maybe she should be doing something more productive, like say......getting a job or something, rather than suing the state and the city.  Typical Liberal Welfare Collecting Scum.  This woman is a classic example of why I support abortion.  

Jason Carle
Jason Carle

Jody, work on your reading skills...  

"Hill, 33, was walking to work last June when she noticed a sidewalk chalk message that had once read "Resist, Don't Enlist" had been altered so as to only read "Enlist." She stopped to try and restore the original message, but was interrupted when FPS and police officers handcuffed, detained, searched, and questioned her."

ludwigtr
ludwigtr

Ignorant tool.  People like you are why I want to live in a new country.

NewsDog
NewsDog

Please find the new country and go. Soon. Maybe you should try Venezuela, Sean Penn seems to think Hugo Chavez is doing a great job of restricting free press and all. 

ludwigtr
ludwigtr

I'm obviously talking about a country that has worse income inequality and more screwed up rights than the one I'm currently living in.  Good call.

GOD
GOD

your comment makes me sick. Because of ignorant people like you, this nation is going down hill. What a shame, "Jody". 

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