Pricing the opposition out of the market: no free speech in Dearbornistan (anyhow: one Muslim on the jury and the goose is cooked…)
The Detroit News
Dearborn â€” A Quran-burning pastor will face a trial this afternoon, after refusing to pay a bond ordered by a judge for his planned Good Friday protest of the Islamic Center of America.
Terry Jones’ decision came after Judge Mark Somers of 19th District Court in Dearborn ruled that prosecutors proved beyond a reasonable doubt that Jones’ planned demonstration on a small median outside the Ford Road mosque could breach the peace.
“I’m not surprised,” by the ruling, Jones said.
He opted for the trial after Somers said he could either pay the unspecified bond or face trial.
Somers began impaneling a jury this afternoon.
The ruling puts into question Jones’ demonstration, which has sparked arguments about the line between free speech and public safety. Prosecutors have sought the unspecified bond â€” Jones said it was up to $100,000 â€” for extra police in fear of a riot.
The hearing comes a day after Dearborn city officials denied Jones a permit to protest on public land near the mosque citing public safety concerns. They say he could face arrest if he carries through the protest. Before the hearing, Jones â€” who wore a leather jacket and jeans â€” said he planned to proceed with the demonstration despite the permitting issues or peace bond.
“This will not stop us,” Jones said before the hearing that began at 3 p.m.
The courtroom was packed mostly with journalists and a few spectators including Richard Fournier. The Redford Township resident said he supports the minister’s right to free speech but thinks he is misguided.
“He’s just grandstanding to get attention,” said Fournier.
Outside the court, a handful of protestors gathered against Jones. One held a sign reading, “Racist Terry Jones Get out of Town.”
The issue is also being watched very closely by the ACLU of Michigan, which planned to have a representative in the courtroom today. The organization wants to make sure Jones’ First Amendment rights are not being violated, said ACLU of Michigan spokeswoman Rana Elmir.
Also today, Arab Community Center for Economic & Social Services Director Hassan Jaber issued a statement backing Jones’ right to protest â€” and residents’ right to criticize him.
“At ACCESS, we work to empower people to become fully engaged members of their community,” Jaber said.
“We cannot teach the U.S. Constitution in our citizenship classes while opposing First Amendment rights. So we support Mr. Jones’ right to speak, but we do so with our own post script: That his message of bigotry and hate does not resonate here.”
The city of Dearborn has told him he can protest at other, “free speech” zones in the city. They and prosecutors argued that the proximity of nearby churches and a school could compromise safety if Jones demonstrated at the mosque.
He gained notoriety when 20 people died in Afghanistan last month, after, Jones’ church “put the Quran on trial” and burned the Islamic holy book March 21.
Jones said he will not burn the Quran during his planned demonstration Friday. He said he and a handful of supporters will hold up signs and there will be some speeches during his estimated two-hour protest.
Jones said he is not protesting against mosque itself but the “radical” elements in Islam. Jones said he chose the Islamic Center because it is billed as the largest mosque in North America and chose Dearborn because of its large concentration of Muslims.
Although he will be armed with a pistol, Jones said he is “coming there totally in peace.”
A few miles away from the courthouse, religious leaders from various denominations joined together in prayer at the Islamic Center of America.