Ann Arbor Jewish Community Seek to Shut Down Weekly Antisemitic Protests Outside Synagogue in Appeals Court
Members of an Ann Arbor, Michigan synagogue were in court this week arguing for more enforcement to prevent the viciously antisemitic weekly protests that have greeted worshipers arriving for Shabbat services for nearly 20 years.
In a case presented before a Sixth Circuit panel on Tuesday, members of the Beth Israel Congregation sought to revive First Amendment claims against the city of Ann Arbor, as well as the group of antisemitic protesters who have demonstrated near its entrance every Saturday morning since September 2003.
Signs held by the protestors include “Jewish Power Corrupts,” “Resist Jewish Power,” and “No More Wars for Israel.”
Marvin Gerber and Miriam Brysk, a Holocaust survivor, filed suit in federal court in 2019 alleging the protesters cause them “extreme emotional distress,” and also accused Ann Arbor of failing to enforce several city codes, Courthouse News Service reported on Tuesday.
They have now appealed the decision of US District Judge Victoria Roberts in August 2020 to dismiss calls for the protests to be curbed. Roberts held that the plaintiffs failed to allege a concrete injury that would grant them standing to pursue constitutional claims, and reinforced the protesters’ right to gather peacefully outside the synagogue.
“Indeed, the First Amendment more than protects the expressions by defendants of what plaintiffs describe as ‘anti-Israeli, anti-Zionist, and antisemitic,’” Roberts wrote in her opinion. “Peaceful protest such as this — on sidewalks and streets — is entitled to the highest level of constitutional protection, even it disturbs, is offensive, and causes emotional distress.”
Lawyers for Gerber and Brysk argued that Judge Roberts misinterpreted the scope of the relief they requested, which they claim involved only “the imposition of reasonable time, place and manner conditions” on the protests.
They accused the district court of ignoring the affidavits of several synagogue members that attested to the disgust and anxiety caused by the protesters’ signs, and said the emotional distress constitutes an “intangible injury” that grants them standing.
No timetable has yet been set for the court’s final decision.