The American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana is intervening on behalf of a local photographer being sued for defamation after documenting a New Orleans school principal wearing Nazi-associated symbols at a public protest of the removal of Confederate monuments in 2017. Nicholas Dean, who was terminated from his job at the Crescent Leadership Academy, sued the photographer, Abdul Aziz, for defamation alleging Aziz’s coverage of the event caused him harm.
The ACLU of Louisiana is asking a federal judge in Florida to dismiss the lawsuit, asserting the court lacks jurisdiction and Dean’s claims have no merit.
“If Nicholas Dean didn’t want people to know about his political views, he shouldn’t have attended a public protest alongside Nazis and white nationalists wearing Nazi-associated symbols,” said Alanah Odoms Hebert, ACLU of Louisiana executive director. “Rather than take responsibility for his actions, Mr. Dean is trying to use the courts to punish the journalist who photographed him in public. His claims have no merit and should be immediately dismissed.”
Dean has sued NOLA.com/ The Times-Picayune and Aziz for defamation in Florida, where Dean now resides.
“Journalists—and all of us—have a right to report and comment on issues of public concern, including calling out racist displays of white supremacy,” Schwartzmann continued. “Defamation claims are dangerous because they ask the courts to punish someone simply for something they said. In the United States we believe in the robust exchange of ideas and community debate. We do not believe that people should be hauled into court for reporting or commenting on public events. It’s important to Mr. Aziz and to all of us that this lawsuit be dismissed.”
The ACLU’s filing notes that Dean did not offer any evidence that he is not aligned with white nationalist organizations.
In addition to Dean attending the protests, a May 7, 2017 interview, later posted on Facebook and YouTube, shows him at the “Battle of New Orleans” carrying a wooden shield and wearing rings associated with Nazism and other gear popular among “alt-right” activists and white nationalists. At the event, white nationalists protested the removal of Confederate monuments at Lee Circle in New Orleans.
The ACLU’s filing notes that Dean offered no evidence that he is not aligned with white nationalist organizations.