ACLU Lawsuit Claims Campus Martius Security Violates Free Speech

January 28, 2015, 3:46 PM by  Allan Lengel

The American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan filed a federal lawsuit in Detroit Wednesday against the private conservancy that manages city-owned Campus Martius Park in downtown, saying its security team illegally banned political activists from the public space.

“Campus Martius belongs to the City of Detroit and its people,” said Brooke Tucker, a staff attorney at the ACLU of Michigan, in a statement. “Regardless of who manages our public assets, no private organization’s rules will ever trump the freedoms enshrined in the U.S. Constitution. And with a growing number of city assets being overseen through public-private partnerships, citizens cannot allow public spaces to be converted into Constitution-free zones. Public parks are forums for free expression, not staging areas for assaults on our rights.”

A press release issued by the ACLU said that the lawsuit was filed on behalf of Moratorium Now, a group fighting against foreclosures, and members of the anti-violence organization, Women in Black-Detroit.

Detroit 300 Conservancy manages and operates the park under a contract with the city, and uses Guardsmark security company to patrol the park and enforce its rules.

The lawsuit alleges that the Detroit 300 Conservancy violated the plaintiffs’ First Amendment rights by prohibiting them from petitioning, leafleting or protesting at the downtown park. A phone call to Detroit 300 Conservancy was not immediately returned for comment. 

Additionally, the lawsuit alleges that that a privately owned surveillance center in downtown Detroit operated by Rock Ventures, Dan Gilbert's company,  snooped on the activists’ social media accounts and provided information about their activities to the conservancy and Guardsmark, the security firm employed to help enforce the unconstitutional bans. Rock Ventures is the parent company of Quicken Loans.

A spokeswoman for Rock Ventures did not immediately return a phone call to a cell phone for comment. 

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