University of Illinois Settles Free Speech Lawsuit with Student Journalist

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The University of Illinois has settled a lawsuit with a student who alleged that the school violated his First Amendment rights when it applied a “no-contact order” against him, meaning that the student was told he could not film or report on a physical altercation that took place between him and an instructor at an anti-Trump protest on campus.

The University of Illinois has settled out of court with a student journalist who filed a lawsuit alleging that the application of a no-contact order against him was in violation of his First Amendment rights, according to a report by the News-Gazette.

The lawsuit was filed earlier this year in response to the university allegedly placing a restriction on the freedom of three students — Blair Nelson, Joel Valdez, and Andrew Minik — to write about professor Tariq Khan, who had allegedly assaulted them in November 2017 at an anti-Trump event on campus.

“Fuck Donald Trump and fuck you guys,” purportedly shouted instructor Khan in a video taken during the incident.

“He’s still your president,” one student can be heard responding in the video.

The students and members of the school’s Turning Point USA (TPUSA) group had attended the event in support of President Trump.

“I’m not scared of you little snowflakes, okay? I’m gonna go tear down one of your flyers right now,” responded Khan to the TPUSA members.

“No one’s scared of you, old man. Don’t you have kids to look after?” reacted Valdez, which apparently was enough to set off the instructor, who then approached the students with aggressive demeanor.

“Are you threatening my kids?” said Khan as he got into Valdez’s face. “Wanna threaten my kids? Say something again! Say something about my kids again! Say one more thing about my kids, bitch!”

“I didn’t threaten your kids,” said Valdez.

The instructor then turned his attention toward another student filming the incident.

“You want to threaten my kids too?” said Khan to the student filming, before appearing to take a swing at the student.

“I didn’t say anything about your kids,” the student responded. “I didn’t say anything to you.”

“What did I say that was a threat?” asked Valdez.

“Not so tough anymore, are you, little boy?” said Khan. “I’ll fuck you up.”

Khan can then be seen grabbing Valdez’s cell phone and eventually throwing it to the ground after the two engaged in a scuffle on camera. The instructor was later arrested by university police for criminal damage to property, according to the Daily Illini.

About one month later, on the same day that Khan appeared in court on his misdemeanor charge, the three students were issued a no-contact order by Assistant Dean of Students Rony Die, according to the News-Gazette. The students were told to abide by the orders until they graduated.

The charge against the instructor was later dismissed after he completed a “second-chance program.”

As for the three students suing the school over the no-contact order, the complaints by Minik and Valdez were dismissed earlier this year due to the two no longer being students at the university. The third plaintiff, Nelson, however, is still a student and has settled with the school.

Under the terms of the settlement, Nelson has agreed to follow a no-contact order, unless his filming of Khan is “inadvertent” or at a public event, according to the News-Gazette.

The report added that Khan has decided to counter-sue the students, and that the instructor is seeking more than $50,000 in damages for alleged hate crimes and “intentional infliction of emotional distress.”

You can follow Alana Mastrangelo on Twitter at @ARmastrangelo, and on Instagram.


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