Monday, March 31, 2008

The Limits of Free Speech

I'm a little late in covering this story but Michael Marcavage of Repent America has been found guilty of Disorderly Conduct for taking street preaching a little too far.

As usual, accounts vary:

WorldNet Daily has this to say:

Just last Halloween, Michael Marcavage was again arrested, this time in Salem, Mass., as he preached on a public sidewalk to thousands of Halloween revelers concerning the wages of sin and separation from God. Because Marcavage was using a megaphone – even though allowed by municipal law during the time in question – he was arrested and charged with "disorderly conduct."
Naturally, they see the fault lying in Salem's unique culture:

The real problem in modern Salem – where policemen and firemen proudly wear insignia declaring Salem as "the Witch City" – is that those who practice witchcraft and the occult obviously do not like to hear a message of Christianity and might react violently to what they do not want to hear. In some strange twist of logic, the judge justified the police's decision to silence a Christian based on the dark festivities of that "unique day."
Well, as resident of Salem, let me tell you. The police are right. Halloween is a very special day in Salem. And believe me when I tell you, the police were very, very concerned about the possibility of a riot.

According to the Judge who heard the case:

"Halloween in Salem is a unique day of the year, It's a very small community, and you have 60,000 to 80,000 people crammed into a very tight space. In this day and age, we have to be very careful of controlling crowds."
Now I will yield no one in my support for free speech. But until you have seen 80,000 people congregate in the downtown area of this small city, you cannot imagine how close we came to disaster.

"It had turned into a fiasco, ... He said people were yelling and screaming, arguing over matters of faith and then over the police response, on an already chaotic night when police were also trying to deal with a shooting and a couple of stabbings. The crowd around the officers ... , was becoming hostile.

Prince, the prosecutor, said police were trying to defuse an escalating situation, out of concerns about how the crowd was reacting to the group's message and approach.

Lawyer Benjamin DuPre argued that the tape shows that Marcavage and the group had not been harassing people or getting in their faces, nor were they waving crucifixes — which apparently belonged to a nearby group of Roman Catholic protesters. He argued that prosecutors had no evidence to prove that the group was being disorderly.

But the judge disagreed.

"What I saw on that tape was defiance and basically passive-aggressiveness," Uhlarik said. "It was not a good decision by your client."

He also said it appeared that police had "exhibited a good amount of discretion, respecting the rights of your client." Marcavage, said the judge, was still free to preach. And, the judge said, he's welcome back in Salem this Halloween.

Marcavage said outside court that he believes the police "took the law into their own hands" by cutting off his preaching that night and said the order to turn over the bullhorn was unlawful.

The Salem News version is here:

WorldNutDaily's is here.

"The Police took the law into their own hands"?


1 comment:

Raymond Grinnell IV said...

WorldNet Daily is completely mistaken. He was specifically NOT allowed by municipal law to use electronic voice amplification during the time in question. Salem's noise ordinances are very clear, and he had been politely asked to desist his preaching based on the noise ordinance. It was after repeated requests by the officers to no longer use the bullhorn that he was arrested, much to the approval and amusement of the crowd that gathered to watch.