Jefferson Shreve, the Republican challenging Mayor Joe Hogsett, raised questions this week about whether he would use the resources of the Mayor’s Office to try to block protests he disagreed with.
Shreve said Wednesday in a statement on X (formerly known as Twitter) and Facebook that he would attempt to prevent a pro-Palestine group from protesting at Indianapolis’ war memorials and criticized Hogsett for failing to condemn the planned protest.
After comments and questions about whether a government official trying to stop a protest would violate the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which guarantees the “right of the people peaceably to assemble,” Shreve’s campaign on Thursday tried to clarify his statements, and said he believes in the right for citizens to protest.
Shreve’s comments came after five groups affiliated with the Indianapolis Liberation Center organized a pro-Palestine gathering for 5:30 p.m. Thursday on Monument Circle. A web site for the event called it “a day of resistance.”
On Wednesday, the Republican mayoral candidate wrote in a lengthy post on X that “as mayor, I would do everything in my power to stop a group with this vile outlook from assembling on property dedicated to Americans who have died for our country.”
Shreve called on Hogsett to condemn the protest. Hogsett later posted a statement on X condemning the Hamas terrorist attacks but not the protest itself. Shreve doubled-down on his stance in a reply to the mayor’s post.
“Should pro-Hamas rallies take place on monuments to our war heroes? As Mayor, I’d say no,” Shreve posted.
Shreve’s spokeswoman said on Friday that meant that he wouldn’t allow the group to protest on the monument itself but wouldn’t object to the protest being just off the memorial, which is what the group did.
Indianapolis City-County Councilor Ethan Evans, an independent, identified himself as the only Jewish person on the council in a reply to Shreve’s post.
“The first amendment to the Constitution says speech is protected,” Evans wrote. “You don’t have a say as mayor.”
Daniel Conkle, a constitutional law professor at the Indiana University Maurer School of Law, said the government is only allowed to restrict protests in manner that is content-neutral.
“It is constitutionally illicit to target demonstrations simply because of the particular viewpoint being expressed,” Conkle told IBJ.
On Thursday, a spokesperson for Shreve told IBJ in a text, “Jefferson believes in free speech and the right to assemble. He stands with Israel and condemns Hamas. He believes the purpose of this assembly is wrong.”
The campaign later sent an emailed statement attributed to Shreve.
“Yes, in our society, citizens have free speech and assembly protections, even when it’s vile, hateful or ignorant,” the statement from Shreve said. “But I continue to call on Mayor Hogsett to condemn not the ability of this group to speak, but the substance of their speech, as he appropriately did with white nationalist protesters a few years ago.”
Late Thursday, the pro-Israel group protested on the Soldiers and Sailors Monument, while the pro-Palestine group chanted on the sidewalk in the southeast quadrant of Monument Circle. Organizers and police officers told IBJ neither group was required to obtain a permit, and neither did.
The Monument itself is state property.
For city property, permits are required for events that draw 250 or more participants when obstructing the right-of-way, or using a temporary structure or display, according to Indianapolis Department of Business and Neighborhood Services spokesman Kurt Christian.