Montclair State University agreed to eliminate its two-week advanced permission requirement for on-campus demonstrations and update regulations to form an equitable environment following a lawsuit from protestors on campus.
Montclair State also agreed to pay $42,000 for the protestors’ legal fees and damages.
Two years ago, Young Americans for Liberty (YAL), a pro-liberty organization, filed a lawsuit arguing that some of Montclair State’s policies violated their First and 14th Amendment rights because three students of YAL were stopped as they were peacefully protesting on campus.
Three students and members of the YAL, Mathew Botros, Mena Botros and James Pillion, were demonstrating their concerns regarding gun-free zones in front of Feliciano School of Business on Sept. 10, 2019. The protestors wore orange jumpsuits while holding signs concerning gun-free zones. They believe that these zones only benefit criminals.
They were told to stop protesting by a university police officer because they objected to Montclair State’s policy of receiving permission two weeks before holding a political demonstration on campus.
The president of YAL, Mena Botros, a junior chemistry major, said requiring permission to hold a protest on campus grounds violates their constitutional rights.
“[It] goes against [our] freedom of speech [and is] restricting our First Amendment right,” Botros said. “Needing a permit [jeopardizes] saying our beliefs freely. It was a big issue.”
Mathew Botros, a junior biology major and event coordinator of YAL, said the purpose of this demonstration was to bring attention to the free speech issue on campus.
“The attempt of [the protest] was to start a conversation [about the First Amendment] and to see if anyone would tell us to stop protesting without a permit,” Mathew said. “The fact they forced us to stop [protesting] violates the First Amendment. It violates the freedom of assembly.”
Mathew argues that their 14th Amendment was also violated due to the class rankings of Montclair State. He alleges that higher-ranking organizations have had an unfair advantage of receiving more funds from the Student Government Association than lower-ranked organizations through their “student recognition system.”
“[We] feel really proud of getting more funding [and] less restriction to register as an organization,” Mathew said.
Andrew Mees, a university spokesperson, said the university supports freedom of expression.
“Montclair State University is committed to fostering an environment where different viewpoints can be expressed freely and peacefully, and where all voices have the opportunity to be heard,” Mees said.