Five protesters supporting the Black Lives Matter movement are set to receive $5,000 each following an Iowa appeal board decision on their ban from the state Capitol last year, the Des Moines Register reports.
The State Appeal Board on Monday voted to approve a recommendation from state attorneys to pay five protesters $5,000 each and their lawyer $45,000. According to the settlement, which a judge must approve before it is finalized, the state will withdraw all bans on the five protesters, noting that they "may continue to enter and use the Iowa Capitol Complex on the same basis and under the same terms as any other law-abiding member of the public."
Jalesha Johnson, Louise Bequeaith, Haley Jo Dikkers, Brad Penna, and Brandi Ramus were arrested on July 1, 2020 after an altercation with police officers at the Capitol. The Iowa State Patrol, which is in charge of Capitol security, told these protesters that they were banned, some for six months and some for a year, from setting foot on the state property that surrounded the building. Four were also charged with interference with official acts or disorderly conduct, which were later dismissed, and one pleaded guilty to simple misdemeanor interference, being ordered to pay $250.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa sued over the ban, specifically Iowa Department of Public Safety Commissioner Stephan Bayens and several members of the Iowa State Patrol, saying that their rights were being violated.
Last December, U.S. District Court Judge Rebecca Goodgame Ebinger prevented the state from enforcing the bans, saying that they "likely burden more speech than is necessary to achieve the significant state interests of preventing violence and ensuring public safety."
"We are grateful to the court and relieved that our clients will be able to engage in their right to nonviolent speech and assembly at their state Capitol once again while we move ahead in this litigation," ACLU of Iowa Legal Director Rita Bettis Austen said at the time.
The settlement also notes that the Iowa Department of Public Safety will continue to instruct officers who serve in the Capitol about the First Amendment. A spokesperson for the ACLU of Iowa declined to comment to the Register about the settlement, as did one of the protesters who was reached for comment. The other four protesters could not be reached for comment, and spokespeople for the State Patrol and the Department of Public Safety did not return the newspaper’s calls.
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