The University of Washington has been sued by the schools College Republicans after it demanded the payment of $17,000 in security fees for the planned speech of Oregon activist Joey Gibson of the Patriot Prayer group. The lawsuit raises an important free speech question in whether schools can effectively bar conservative speakers by insisting that free speech is not free in a financial sense. The imposition of prohibitive costs on groups like the College Republicans is facially neutral but potentially discriminatory in practice based on the content of speech. It also creates a system that indirectly supports “the heckler’s veto.”
The “Freedom X” law firm filed the complaint below alleging that the security fees are an infringement on free speech and an effective tax.
The university points out that security fees for an event in January 2017 for conservative Milo Yiannopolous ran to more than $70,000 between UW police and Seattle police. The event produced violent protests broke out in Red Square, including one person who was shot.