UI students file federal lawsuit against University for violation of rights

Three University students filed a federal lawsuit against University officials and an instructor for the violation of their rights to free press, free speech and due process.

The three plaintiffs are University students Joel Valdez, Andrew Minik and Blair Nelson.

The lawsuit follows an assault against Valdez, freshman in LAS, by instructor Tariq Khan at an “anti-Trump rally” organized by the Black Rose Anarchist group in November 2017. According to the case complaint, Khan also lunged at Nelson, who was filming the incident.

Minik, senior in Business, reported on the incident for Campus Reform, a college news organization, according to a University press release.

Both Valdez and Nelson were issued restraining orders. Minik was also issued a restraining order even though he was not present at the event.

According to the case complaint, the restraining orders were issued to the students without notice or hearing.

“I hope the University does the right thing and agrees to put an end to their abuse of power,” Minik said in an email. “No student should have to go through what the three of us have endured just for covering the news.”

Noel Sterett, member of Mauck and Baker, the attorney office representing the plaintiffs, said they hope the University will do the right thing.

“These three students have been through so much, and it all started because they decided to cover news on campus,” Sterett said.

Sterett said Valdez was the victim of an assault and had his cell phone destroyed.

“Mr. Tariq Khan turned that around against them and then put them under this supervision, and disciplinary action is unacceptable; it’s unconstitutional and it needs to be redressed immediately,” he said.

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Editor’s note: The University, Joel Valdez, Blair Nelson and Tariq Khan did not respond in time for the publication.

Correction: A previous version of the article misstated Valdez’s full name. The Daily Illini regrets this error.