Ann Arbor Shul appeals
A protest sign in front of the synagogue. (Alex Sherman)
The lawsuit argued that the protesters violated several federal laws that make it illegal for individuals to engage in conduct, including speeches aimed at certain people based on their race or ethnicity.
M.The embers of the Ann Arbor Beth Israel Congregation were on trial this week, pleading for more enforcement to prevent the weekly anti-Israel protests that welcomed worshipers who had been coming to the Conservative synagogue for Shabbat services since September 2003 .
Members of the synagogue, who appeared before a three-judge panel of the US Court of Appeals in Cincinnati on April 27, attempted to reinstate claims against the city of Ann Arbor and the group of protesters who demonstrated near its entrance every Saturday manufacture tomorrow for nearly two decades.
The demonstrators held signs with messages like “Jewish Power Corrupts” and “Resist Jewish Power”.
The original lawsuit, dated December 2019, was filed by Marvin Gerber, a member of Beth Israel. Dr. Miriam Brysk, a Holocaust survivor and member of the Pardes Hannah Congregation, which is located in an outbuilding next to Beth Israel, is part of the lawsuit as a co-plaintiff.
The lawsuit argued that the protesters violated several federal laws that make it illegal for individuals to engage in conduct, including speeches aimed at certain people based on their race or ethnicity. The lawsuit separately alleged that the City of Ann Arbor supported and aided the protesters by failing to enforce the prohibitions in their Sign Ordinance.
You have now appealed against the decision of US District Judge Victoria Roberts in August 2020 to reject calls to contain the protests. Roberts dismissed the lawsuit on the grounds that plaintiffs had failed to show that they suffered any specific injury as a result of the protests. In response, the plaintiff’s attorney filed a re-examination request, which was also denied.
Indeed, the first amendment more than protects what the defendants say about what the plaintiffs describe as “anti-Israel, anti-Zionist and anti-Semitic,” wrote Roberts in her opinion. “Peaceful protest like this – on sidewalks and streets – is entitled to the highest level of protection of the constitution, even if it is disturbing, insulting and causes emotional stress.”
In their appeal to the Sixth Circuit, Gerber and Brysk argued that Roberts had misinterpreted the scope of the relief they requested, which in their view only entailed “imposing appropriate time, place and behavior” on the protests.
They accused the district court of ignoring several members of the synagogue who testified to the emotional distress caused by the protesters’ signs, and said the burden constituted an “intangible harm” to which they should be respected.
Marc Susselman, plaintiff’s lead attorney, and Ziporah Reich, plaintiff’s co-attorney, hope the appeal process means they are making progress.
“We had the opportunity to further substantiate our arguments,” said Susselman.
At this point, the Council believes that the key to further progress is whether the Appellate Body gives its thumbs up, recognizes emotional distress as a specific injury, and imposes appropriate time, place and behavioral conditions for the protests.
No timetable has yet been set for the final decision of the court.