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US Justice Dept. Supports Free Speech In Campuses

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In a statement of Interest filed in a federal lawsuit in Mississippi, the Justice Department made the government's stand clear that it will uphold the First Amendment rights of students in public colleges to free speech.

The lawsuit was filed by J. Michael Brown, a former student at Jones County Junior College, a public institution of higher education in Mississippi, and the campus group Young Americans for Liberty, regarding the college's policies requiring campus administrators to approve all meetings or gatherings.

The lawsuit challenges the college's policies requiring students to schedule all meetings and gatherings on campus with college administrators at least three days before the event.

As per the College's speech policies, officials reserve the right not to allow any activity. Violating the speech policies is punishable with expulsion from the College.

In his lawsuit, Brown alleged that authorities twice called the campus police as he sought to discuss with fellow students at the college's central square about free speech, civil liberties, and marijuana legalization.

He also alleged that he was brought to the campus police chief's office, and was intimidated by the police chief and other campus officials.

After these incidents, Brown said he stopped engaging in expressive activity on campus for fear of disciplinary action or arrest.

U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos vowed that the Trump Administration won't let students be silenced, and will stand with their right to speak and with their right to learn truth through the free exchange of ideas.

Mike Hurst, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Mississippi, appealed to the college authorities to change its policies to comply with the country's Constitution, and encourage its students to speak and assemble.

"The United States of America is not a police state," said Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband for the Civil Rights Division.

"Repressive speech codes are the indecent hallmark of despotic, totalitarian regimes. They have absolutely no place in our country, and the First Amendment outlaws all tyrannical policies, practices, and acts that abridge the freedom of speech," he added.

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