ACLU to Sue Peoria, Illinois Over Twitter-based Home Raid - The UpStream

ACLU to Sue Peoria, Illinois Over Twitter-based Home Raid

posted Sunday May 18, 2014 by Scott Ertz

Parody of public officials and celebrities is a long-held tradition in the United States, as well as all free societies throughout history. That parody is an important part of a country's speech and culture. In modern time, the most common way for a public figure to be parodied is through social media - especially Twitter where there is little barrier to entry.

Jon Daniel from Peoria, Illinois created one such Twitter account, in the name of Mayor Jim Ardis. The mayor, or someone in the mayor's office, was not happy with the account and decided to act, calling in the police to deal with the issue. The police, in turn, were issued a warrant, which resulted in the search of his home and seizure of his personal property. Among the seized items were computers, phones and tablets.

This act, which is obviously against the 1st and 4th Amendments, came under immediate scrutiny by many organizations. The important organization is the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois. The ACLU has reached out to Mr. Daniel, and is representing him in a suit against the city. ACLU of Illinois Communications and Public Policy Director Ed Yohnka said,

The ACLU of Illinois now represents Mr. Daniel, the creator of the Twitter parody. Mr. Daniel, like other parodists, has a First Amendment right to post these tweets. He was engaging in a time-honored tradition of poking fun at public officials - even when the public official doesn't like it. Because Mr. Daniel's activities were protected, they should never have led to a warrant and search of his home. The police activity in this case was unnecessary and contrary to both the First and Fourth Amendment protections to which he was entitled.

In the coming weeks, the ACLU of Illinois anticipates bringing legal action in support of Mr. Daniel against those officials who are responsible for the violations of his rights. We hope this action will send a strong signal to all that wrongful use of the police power to suppress protected speech, even when it is critical or makes fun of public officials is an abuse of power and is not acceptable.

Normally, these types of cases do not go well for the defendants, and the ACLU's involvement will not help their case. This should be an interesting case, so we will keep you up-to-date on the proceedings.

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