Activists Oppose Rule Mandating $1M Liability Insurance for Rallies

August 17, 2017

Some activists are pushing to change rules that require groups to obtain $1 million in liability insurance before holding a protest at the Iowa Capitol, claiming the rule threatens free speech.

The Iowa Department of Administrative Services says it will review the rule, The Des Moines Register reported .

Robert Ussery, who heads the Des Moines chapter of the Iowa Minuteman Civil Defense Corps, said his small group has held rallies at the Capitol for years and hasn’t previously been asked for insurance.

The group is planning an October rally but is struggling to meet the requirement and may have to cancel the event, Ussery said.

The state requirement has been in place for years but hasn’t always been enforced.

Ed Fallon is a former Democratic state legislator who focuses on climate change issues. He planned a concert and rally highlighting American Indian concerns about climate change at the Capitol on July 1. Though he was notified about the liability insurance rule, he ignored the state’s request.

Legislators are always saying, ‘Welcome to the People’s House.’ So why do the people need $1 million in liability insurance?” Fallon said. “I figured it would be a good opportunity to just show up and see what happens.”

About 150 people attended the event. While the state patrol sent troopers to monitor parking and traffic, state officials didn’t interfere with the event, Fallon said.

“We recognize that one size does not fit all,” said Tami Wiencek, a department spokeswoman. Factors such as the number of people in attendance, the length of the event and protecting state property will be considered as the policy is reviewed.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa said the requirement should be waived if a group can’t afford it.

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