Federal lawsuit states that arrest, removal, and barring of Homestead resident who spoke in support of police policy reforms violates free speech and due process
The Greater Miami Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Florida has filed a lawsuit against the City of Homestead and Homestead Mayor Jeff Porter on behalf of a community activist who was removed from a Homestead City Council Meeting and barred from attending future meetings for engaging in constitutionally protected speech.
Kim Hill, a middle school teacher and community activist in Homestead, had begun attending Homestead City Council meetings in 2015 following a shooting involving a Homestead Police officer, using the Council’s public comment period to call for police reforms such as body cameras. On August 24, 2016, immediately after speaking during the public comment, Hill was surrounded by several police officers, told he was “under arrest,” and escorted out of City Hall. Hill was then told by officers that he had “been trespassed” and was not allowed to return to City Hall under threat of criminal charges – effectively preventing him from participating in the public comment section of future City Council meetings for fear of being arrested.
“Suppression of free speech should never be a tool for the government to use against dissenters engaged in civil discourse,” stated Hill. “We all have a right to address our leaders, and officials can’t execute a gag order against a person like me simply because they don’t want to hear what we have to say.”
Following his removal and barring from City Hall, Hill reached out to the Miami-Dade Branch of the NAACP, which in turn reached out to the Greater Miami Chapter of the ACLU of Florida for legal assistance. “As the NAACP was contacted concerning Mr. Hill’s situation and turned to the Miami ACLU for assistance, we commend the ACLU for filing this suit clarifying the rights of all persons to advocate before the Homestead City Council,” stated Brad Brown, a Vice President of the NAACP Miami-Dade Branch.
In the lawsuit filed today in Miami federal court, the ACLU argues that the ban imposed on Mr. Hill constitutes a prior restraint on his free speech, and the lack of a means for him to challenge the ban constitutes a violation of his due process rights. Additionally, the lawsuit points out that the printed policy used as the justification for Hill’s removal in August 2016 was not actually in effect at the time, as the City Council had adopted new rules four months prior.
“One of the foundational ideas of our democracy is that all of us have the right to openly and publicly question and challenge our elected officials,” stated ACLU Greater Miami Chapter legal panel chair Jeanne Baker. “Those officials cannot use the power of their office to prevent someone from speaking indefinitely just because they don’t like what that person has to say. Mr. Hill has a right to be heard.”
Hill is represented by Baker, Alan J. Greenstein, and ACLU of Florida legal director Nancy Abudu.
A copy of the complaint is available here: https://www.aclufl.org/sites/default/files/hillvhomesteadcomplaint.pdf