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After yearlong ban, Mpls. attorney returns to U for a speech

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Jordan Kushner, center
Jordan Kushner, center, photographed entering the Hennepin County District Court in Edina, Minn., on March 10, 2015.
Jeffrey Thompson | MPR News file

Minneapolis civil rights attorney Jordan Kushner will speak to University of Minnesota students Thursday about free speech on campus, after his one-year ban from university's law school was lifted last week. 

Kushner was escorted out of Walter F. Mondale Hall on Nov. 3 last year after videotaping protesters at a lecture by visiting Israeli political science professor Moshe Halbertal. 

University police arrested Kushner. He was charged with three misdemeanors, including trespass and disorderly conduct. Those charges were dropped by the Minneapolis City Attorney's Office this spring, but the university upheld his ban from the West Bank campus. 

"They violated my constitutional rights based on the police removing me from the event, arresting me for no reason, making up reasons that were false for the arrest, putting me in jail and giving me a trespass notice that bans me from campus for a year," Kushner said. 

A university spokesperson said the school stands by its decision and noted the school agreed to "voluntarily vacate the remaining 49 days of the order and focus its resources on a vigorous and full defense of the allegations Mr. Kushner has leveled" against university staff and campus police. 

In August, Kushner filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the university and the arresting officers, which he said he will still pursue even after his campus ban was lifted. 

Kushner says the ban was lifted because students from activist groups like Whose Diversity?, Students for a Democratic Society and the National Lawyers Guild's UMN chapter asked him to deliver a talk at the law school, a few doors down from where he was handcuffed last fall. 

"We all support free speech, but the problem is ... the university doesn't support it in a way that's really sincere," said Kushner. "They seem to sing the praises of free speech when it's being done by someone they sponsor, but they find ways of oppressing, and even persecuting people who are trying to bring speech to the campus that they don't approve of." 

In response, a university spokesperson sent a statement from President Eric Kaler and Provost Karen Hanson that was originally issued after last November's event. In it, they emphasize the U's "commitment to freedom of speech and thought" as well as to ensuring an "open and nonthreatening environment" for students, staff, faculty and the public.

Correction (Sept. 23, 2016): An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified the Hennepin County Attorney's Office as the agency that dropped charges against Jordan Kushner.