Supporters and opponents of Peoria Mayor Jim Ardis' decision to send police after the creator of a parody Twitter account voiced their opinions at a pair of rallies outside City Hall on Tuesday evening.
A couple dozen people, including former police chief Steve Settingsgaard (who declined to comment), stood in defense of Ardis. Holding signs that read "#We Support Mayor Ardis," they argued the mayor was justified in cracking down on @peoriamayor, a Twitter account that presented Ardis as a crack-smoking pervert. Ardis ordered police open a criminal investigation into the matter, which ultimately led to the April 15 raid of the account creator's home.
While Jon Daniel, who started @peoriamayor as joke for his friends, is not going to be charged with a crime, the so-called "Twitter raid" has sparked outrage across the country. The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a lawsuit against the city and several officials who had a hand in the investigation, alleging that Daniel's First and Fourth Amendment rights were violated in the ordeal.
But Ardis' supporters say the phony Twitter account was not protected free speech, and, even though there are no laws on the books that say what Daniel did was illegal, it should be.
"The First Amendment isn't limitless," said Barbara van Auken. "In fact, in a number of states, [what the Twitter account did] is illegal. I think Illinois is about 20 years behind technology."
Meanwhile, another rally formed in opposition to the mayor's supporters. That group claimed what Ardis and the police department did was illegal, and everyone involved in the investigation should be punished.
"That Twitter thing could've been shut down in one day, and only 55 people would've seen it," said Dennis Campbell.
Campbell, a former law enforcement officer, was toting a large sign that showed pictures of one of Daniel's roommates being taken into an interrogation room wearing handcuffs. The sign showed that Settingsgaard lied when he said at a news conference the week after the story broke that the subjects of the raid were "conveyed un-handcuffed and willingly brought down and questioned."
"We've got our own Twitter police. How lucky can we be?" Campbell jabbed.
Some of the participants of both rallies took their messages to the City Council meeting as well. During the public comment section, a handful of supporters again claimed that Ardis was the victim, and to ignore that sentiment would be a "second injustice" to the embattled mayor. Opponents likewise reiterated their calls for Ardis to resign his post for embarrassing the city.
"It doesn't matter if [Ardis] was insulted; he broke the law," said Greg Daniel, Jon Daniel's father.
City Council members did not address the issue at the meeting. Requests for comment were also declined due to the pending ACLU lawsuit.