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Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette
David J. Kolhoff is suing the Allen County Public Library after it barred him from having a demonstration against the federal health care law.

Attorney sues library over ban on plaza exhibits

– Local attorney David J. Kolhoff wants to educate the public about the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

And he wants to do it with a bicycle, a small cart with banners and a laptop computer at the plaza outside the Allen County Public Library.

But according to a lawsuit filed Friday in U.S. District Court by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of Kolhoff, the library’s policy banning demonstrations and exhibits on the plaza is a violation of his First Amendment right to free speech.

“(Kolhoff) has engaged in his expressive activity in public parks located in Fort Wayne,” wrote Kolhoff’s ACLU attorney, Gavin Rose, in the complaint. “His activity on these occasions has met with varying levels of success, for, in his estimation, many persons located in the parks were not curious about the Act and did not desire to be educated.”

Kolhoff argues that the patrons of the public library are more likely to be curious about the federal health care act and therefore more likely to be “willing to be educated,” according to court documents.

In a statement issued Friday, ACLU of Indiana Executive Director Jane Henegar said rights of free expression cannot be restricted without a legitimate reason.

“Given the broad use of the library’s public spaces, we don’t believe it can sincerely assert that Mr. Kolhoff’s educational activity would be disruptive,” Henegar said in the statement.

Library officials told Kolhoff he could reserve one of the library’s meeting rooms for a program on the matter or produce a television program and have it air on the library’s public access television channel, according to court documents.

“Neither of these options are realistic alternatives … and they will not permit him to reach the same number of persons or his intended audience in the manner of his choosing,” Rose argued in court documents.

Because Kolhoff wants to provide information to the public about the health care law before the election, he is asking a federal judge to force the library to let him hold his educational activities on the plaza.

And while he would be willing to do his activities in the library’s Great Hall, which the library said he could do, he would prefer to use the outdoor plaza, according to court documents.

Allen County Public Library Director Jeffrey Krull said that no one has been allowed to use the plaza in the way Kolhoff has requested.

“We have not regarded the plaza as a place for just anybody to set up shop and demonstrate,” Krull said.

The library desires to be an inviting space, he said, and they do not want to have patrons approached as they enter or leave the building.

“We do provide ample opportunities for people to convey their views,” Krull said.