There's a good article in the Michigan Messenger that presents feedback on our case from the ACLU. Here's an excerpt:
. . . Michael Steinberg, the legal director for the ACLU of Michigan, told the Messenger via email, “Based solely on the videotape, it appears that the man encouraging others to convert to Christianity was engaged in speech protected by the First Amendment. The videotape suggests that the man who was arrested was not harassing the people with whom he was speaking, nor was he inciting a riot; rather, he was engaged in the type of free exchange of ideas about religion that is valued in a free society. The man’s message may not have been popular at this particular festival, but the Constitution protects unpopular speech as well as popular speech.”
Steinberg also says that what happened on Sunday, June 20 — when the same missionaries were shooed off a public sidewalk and told they had to be at least five blocks away to hand out literature — looks like an abuse of authority as well.
“If it was being distributed on public streets outside the area reserved for the festival,” he said, “then it was protected First Amendment activity because public streets are quintessential public forums where protection of freedom of speech is strongest.”
He also noted that “videotaping police officers in public – especially when documenting perceived police misconduct – is activity protected by the Constitution.”
Dan Ray, a professor of constitutional law at Cooley Law School in Ann Arbor, agrees. “If any local authority told the religious group that it could only distribute its literature five blocks away,” he said, “that’s a clear First Amendment violation.” As a legal question, he said, this was “not even a close call.”
The Dearborn Police Department did not return calls seeking comment for this article. Read More.