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Des Moines protesters sue over Capitol grounds ban

October 5, 2020 GMT

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Five Des Moines Black Liberation Movement protesters filed a lawsuit Monday in federal court seeking to block Iowa State Patrol troopers from arresting them if they return to the Iowa State Capitol or property surrounding the building.

Jalesha Johnson, Louise Bequeaith, Haley Jo Dikkers, Brad Penna and Brandi Ramus were among 17 people protesting in support of the Black Lives Matter movement at the Capitol on July 1. They were calling for Gov. Kim Reynolds to sign an executive order restoring voting rights for felons, an action she took on Aug. 5.

They were arrested after a scuffle broke out between police and the protesters. Afterward they were told by troopers that if they returned to the state property around the building they would be arrested for trespassing. Some were banned for six months and others for a year.

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They claim the ban blocks their fundamental constitutional rights of free speech, assembly, their right to petition their government, their fundamental freedom of movement and due process.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa and two Iowa civil rights lawyers are representing them.

ACLU of Iowa Legal Director Rita Bettis Austen said there is no statutory authority for such a ban.

A spokesman for the Iowa Attorney General’s office, which will represent the troopers, said attorneys are reviewing the lawsuit and will respond in court.