IJ’s Newest First Amendment Retaliation Case

November 1, 2023

Sylvia Gonzalez is not alone. 

Noah Petersen lives in Newton, Iowa. Noah, just like Sylvia, became concerned with an issue affecting his community. After the local police mistreated a resident, Noah wanted to voice those concerns. So he went to his city council. In small towns and big cities alike, city council meetings are the primary place where citizens can speak their minds to elected officials.

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He spoke during the meeting’s public comment period, calmly reading from a prepared statement that criticized the mayor and the police chief. But rather than listen, the mayor interrupted him—and the police chief arrested and handcuffed Noah and took him to jail. 

The city then charged Noah for allegedly “disrupting a lawful assembly.” But respectfully voicing concerns in the appropriate forum isn’t “disruptive.” Everyone knows the real reason he was charged: Like Sylvia, he was being punished for daring to speak out against those in power. IJ and Noah have now filed a lawsuit to hold the mayor and police chief responsible for their retaliation.  

The day after we sued, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear Sylvia’s case. That plays into IJ’s strategy perfectly: We file a series of lawsuits designed to pull out government abuse from its roots. If we win Sylvia’s case at the Supreme Court, Noah’s will be the first on-the-ground case to implement the new rule—the next step in eradicating this type of First Amendment retaliation nationwide. If we lose, it’ll be another chance to change the Court’s mind.

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