The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana today filed a lawsuit against the town of Knightstown, after at least 26 community members were banned from commenting on the police department’s official Facebook page, due to comments that were critical of the police department.
The lawsuit, filed on behalf of former Chief of the Police Department, Mr. Christopher Newkirk, alleges that the town’s actions represent viewpoint-based discrimination, in violation of the First Amendment to the Unites States Constitution.
After leaving the police department, Mr. Newkirk has remained involved in the community. He frequently views Facebook posts made by the police department and has commented on these posts to provide his thoughts.
As a result of Mr. Newkirk’s comments, the police department banned him from its Facebook page, removing previous comments and prohibiting him from commenting in the future, ultimately prohibiting him from engaging in any expressive activity on the Facebook page.
“The First Amendment protects people, who regardless of their views, attempt to hold the government accountable through expression,” said Gavin M. Rose, ACLU of Indiana Senior Attorney. “Knightstown’s practice of silencing citizens on Facebook who are critical of the police department’s actions or policies is unconstitutional.”