A former ASU student is appealing a trespassing conviction from a March 2022 Tempe campus incident, saying the University's campus is a "public forum."
According to appeal documents filed Thursday, Jan. 26, Tim Tizon, a student at the time of the incident, was arrested by the ASU Police Department at the Memorial Union on March 3, 2022, and charged with third degree criminal trespassing.
Reilly Stephens, a staff attorney at Liberty Justice Center, which filed the appeal on Tizon's behalf, said "the state of Arizona has explicitly said the public spaces on our public university campuses are open to the public and are what are known as public forum under free speech."
In appeal documents, Tizon is named as a member of Young Americans for Liberty, a libertarian-leaning political activism club with a campus presence. According to the appeal, Tizon set up a table displaying the club's logo outside of the MU on the afternoon of March 3, following only some of ASU's rules for tabling in that part of the campus. Tizon then handed out copies of the U.S. Constitution to students walking past.
But Tizon did not reserve the space where he set up the table, his lawyer said. According to ASU's rules for tabling, clubs and organizations need to apply at least one week in advance to reserve space. An ASU spokesperson said spaces around campus, especially near the MU and Hayden Library, need to be reserved because of high foot traffic in the area and the number of clubs that want to use the space.
An ASU spokesperson said the University asks organizations that set up shop without a reservation in these areas to relocate. The University said ASU personnel asked Tizon to relocate and he refused multiple times, and that was when he was arrested and charged.
Stephens said Tizon was not in the way of any foot traffic and was in a public forum, therefore was unfairly arrested and convicted for trespassing. He was convicted of third-degree trespassing by a Maricopa County justice court on Oct. 14. Per Arizona state law, third-degree trespassing occurs when an individual receives a reasonable request by a property owner to leave the property and refuses to do so.
"They can't convict Tim criminally and have a criminal charge in his record for handing out copies of the United States Constitution in a public space that was not interfering with anybody else," Stephens said.
Arizona state law says universities cannot restrict a student's speech on campus unless the restrictions are reasonable or "leave open ample alternative channels for communication of the information."
Stephens said there were no other club or organization tables competing for the space where Tizon was that day, and that Tizon was asked to move to an "empty grass space on the other side of the library where no one is" to continue to hand out copies of the U.S. Constitution.
In an emailed statement, ASU said most of campus is not reservable, and individuals are "welcome to walk around and hand out literature" in those areas.
Young Americans for Liberty Director of Student Rights JP Kirby said in a press release that ASU is attacking student speech.
"We hope that the courts stand with Tim against ASU's attack on student speech and assembly," Kirby said in the release. "We're committed to fighting for students at Arizona State and elsewhere so that no activist feels they have to risk arrest in the public square for sharing their beliefs with their classmates."
Edited by Piper Hansen, Reagan Priest and Greta Forslund.
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Shane Brennan is a politics reporter at State Press. He also works for Cronkite News and Blaze Radio.