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Topic: Church arrest lawsuits had to happen

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untanglingwebs
El Supremo

FLINT NEWS
Protesters file lawsuit following arrests at Flint town hall held at church
Updated 3:42 PM; Posted 3:41 PM
67
Gallery: Flint water protesters arrested at town hall in church sue police, city

By Roberto Acosta racosta1@mlive.com
FLINT, MI -- A lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union alleges the arrest of four water protesters during an April 20, 2017, town hall meeting at a church on Flint's north side was a violation of their constitutional rights.

Tony Palladeno, Jr., Leah Palladeno, and Abel Delgado, of Flint, and Susan Whalen, of Detroit, are named as plaintiffs in the suit filed Thursday, April 20, against the city of Flint, Flint police Chief Tim Johnson, and several individual officers.

It claims Flint police "arrested six individuals at the town hall meeting for engaging in First Amendment-protected speech, including verbally protesting the government's use of police power, making statements critical of the government during the public comment period, expressing approval of comments made by others during the meeting, criticizing police action, using an expletive in front of an officer outside the meeting, and/or videotaping officers outside of the meeting."

Multiple people arrested at Flint water town hall meeting
Multiple people arrested at Flint water town hall meeting

Police say six people were arrested Thursday evening at a Flint church during a town hall meeting on Flint Mayor Karen Weaver's recommendation to stay on the Detroit water system.


However, the lawsuit claims at no time did the group disrupt the meeting or "impede or interfere" with the ability of police to conduct an arrest.

The group was held overnight in the Flint City Lockup and released the following morning. No charges were filed by the Genesee County Prosecutor's Office against any of the people arrested.


Greg Gibbs, one of the group's attorneys, argues the arrests were unconstitutional.


"It was actually a government meeting," he said of the gathering hosted by the city of Flint at House of Prayer Missionary Baptist Church. "Even though it's in a religious facility, it's still a public forum which has the full protection of the First Amendment."

The lawsuit claims Palladeno Jr. spoke to the armed officers about enforcement of religious rules on attendees and "tried to resolve the situation outside the sanctuary" but law enforcement insisted on them following the guidelines.

Officers stopped men wearing hats from entering the church sanctuary unless they removed them, and men who would not remove their hats were asked to leave. The issue led to arguments between members of the public and police.

Prosecutors will not charge six arrested at Flint water town hall
Prosecutors will not charge six arrested at Flint water town hall

In a press release issued Thursday, May 18, Genesee County Prosecutor David Leyton announced that after reviewing the arrest reports from the Flint Police Department, he has decided not to issue charges in the matter.


Johnson did address the crowd prior to the meeting, stating "I just want to make sure this meeting goes off the way it's supposed to and that everybody's respecting everyone."

"Please don't be in here trying to disrupt this meeting, because if you do I'm going to escort you out and I'm only going to take you to the back door and then you're going to jail," he said. "I'm not going to play with nobody tonight."


Gibbs said Leah Palladeno was "slammed" down twice on a desk by a police officer in the common area outside the sanctuary and then forcibly placed in the back of a paddy wagon for using a profane word.

Protestors chide police after Flint water town hall arrests
Protestors chide police after Flint water town hall arrests

Standing on the sidewalk with a megaphone, Abel Delgado -- one of the people arrested on charges including disorderly conduct, assaulting an officer, and interfering with police -- addressed the crowd.


He said there's not an issue with using a church for a public forum, such as a town hall meeting, but it is a violation enforce the rules of those institutions on anyone in attendance and make arrests with no probable cause.

The lawsuit also claims a violation of the Fourth Amendment regarding illegal search and seizures.

Gibbs previously sent a letter to the prosecutor's office and former Flint City Attorney Angela Wheeler informing them that a group of attorneys from the ACLU Fund of Michigan planned to represent those arrested if any criminal charges were filed.

ACLU to represent group arrested at Flint water town hall held at church
ACLU to represent group arrested at Flint water town hall held at church

Six people were arrested on April 20 during a meeting at House of Prayer Missionary Baptist Church on West Carpenter Road where more than 100 people gathered to ask questions and give input on Flint Mayor Karen Weaver's recommendation to stay on the Detroit water system.


"It's nonsense for the chief of police to punish people for exercising their constitutional rights," said Gibbs, adding the lawsuit seeks to enforce policies to prevent the guidelines of a religious institution being used at a public meeting. "He can be mister stern as he wants to be, but he's got to follow the constitutional rules like everybody else."

An undisclosed amount of financial damages are being sought for the group, along with ordering city of Flint and Flint police officials to attend training on the use of force and First and Fourth Amendments.


The city of Flint declined to comment on the pending litigation.
Post Thu Apr 12, 2018 4:06 pm 
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untanglingwebs
El Supremo

"It was actually a government meeting," he said of the gathering hosted by the city of Flint at House of Prayer Missionary Baptist Church. "Even though it's in a religious facility, it's still a public forum which has the full protection of the First Amendment."

The lawsuit claims Palladeno Jr. spoke to the armed officers about enforcement of religious rules on attendees and "tried to resolve the situation outside the sanctuary" but law enforcement insisted on them following the guidelines.

Officers stopped men wearing hats from entering the church sanctuary unless they removed them, and men who would not remove their hats were asked to leave. The issue led to arguments between members of the public and police.
Post Thu Apr 12, 2018 4:07 pm 
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untanglingwebs
El Supremo

He said there's not an issue with using a church for a public forum, such as a town hall meeting, but it is a violation enforce the rules of those institutions on anyone in attendance and make arrests with no probable cause.

The lawsuit also claims a violation of the Fourth Amendment regarding illegal search and seizures.

Gibbs previously sent a letter to the prosecutor's office and former Flint City Attorney Angela Wheeler informing them that a group of attorneys from the ACLU Fund of Michigan planned to represent those arrested if any criminal charges were filed.
Post Thu Apr 12, 2018 4:09 pm 
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untanglingwebs
El Supremo

"It's nonsense for the chief of police to punish people for exercising their constitutional rights," said Gibbs, adding the lawsuit seeks to enforce policies to prevent the guidelines of a religious institution being used at a public meeting. "He can be mister stern as he wants to be, but he's got to follow the constitutional rules like everybody else."

An undisclosed amount of financial damages are being sought for the group, along with ordering city of Flint and Flint police officials to attend training on the use of force and First and Fourth Amendments.
Post Thu Apr 12, 2018 4:10 pm 
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