Seattle Cops Arrest Christian Who Was Assaulted, Threatened For Reading Bible Aloud On Public Property

Now appeals court delivers body blow to city's 'heckler's veto'

An appeals court ruling has delivered a body blow to Seattle’s “heckler’s veto” practices, in which police officers ordered a man, on public property, to quit speaking or leave because others objected to what he was saying.

A panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ordered the case involving Matthew Meinecke returned to the lower courts for an injunction against that leftist ideology.

The dispute arose because Meincke, a Christian, was on public property twice, during an abortion rally and during an LGBT fest, and was reading his Bible.

He was abused by the crowds, physically assaulted, his Bible was destroyed and he was threatened.

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But police, instead of confronting those who actually were engaged in criminal activity, told Meinecke to move somewhere else, then arrested and took him into custody for declining.

He sued police and the city, and the appellate ruling now clears the way for an injunction against the defendants as his case proceeds.

The ruling said, “The prototypical heckler’s veto case is one in which the government silences particular speech or a particular speaker ‘due to an anticipated disorderly or violent reaction of the audience. As such, it ‘is a form of content discrimination, generally forbidden in a traditional or designated public forum.’ The Supreme Court has emphasized as ‘firmly settled’ that ‘the public expression of ideas may not be prohibited merely because the ideas are themselves offensive to some of their hearers, or simply because bystanders object to peaceful and orderly demonstrations.’ … ‘Listeners’ reaction to speech is not a content-neutral basis for regulation.’ …. It is apparent from the facts, including the video available from police body cameras, that the Seattle police directed Meinecke to leave the area because of the reaction his Bible-reading provoked at the Dobbs and PrideFest protests….”

The ruling continued, “[T]he city maintains that the police officers merely sought to relocate Meinecke’s speech rather than ban it outright…. But the government cannot escape First Amendment scrutiny simply because its actions ‘can somehow be described as a burden rather than outright suppression.’ … Even assuming that the officers simply instructed Meinecke to cross the street, their directions burdened Meinecke’s speech. Meinecke had a right, just as those participating in the anti-Dobbs rally or the celebration of PrideFest, to use public sidewalks and streets for the peaceful dissemination of his views….

“If speech provokes wrongful acts on the part of hecklers, the government must deal with those wrongful acts directly; it may not avoid doing so by suppressing the speech. … The officers could have required the protestors to take a step back from Meinecke. They could have called for more officers—as they did after Meinecke was arrested. They could have erected a free speech barricade. They could have warned the protestors that any sort of physical altercation would result in the perpetrators’ arrests. And they could have arrested the individuals who ultimately assaulted Meinecke. The city did none of those things. Instead, the police report on Meinecke’s arrest simply recites that ‘[w]hen resources allowed in the past[,] SPD would try and keep the two opposing groups separated.’ That is hardly the sort of concrete proof necessary to establish that restricting Meinecke’s speech was the only way to avoid violence….”

The ruling was written by Judge Jay Bybee and was joined by Margaret McKeown and Daniel Bress.

They posted a lengthy description of the events:

Protestors surrounded Meinecke after about an hour. One protestor seized Meinecke’s Bible. Meinecke retrieved another Bible from his bag and continued reading aloud. Another protestor grabbed hold of—and ripped pages from—the new Bible. The altercation soon escalated. As protestors, some of whom Seattle police characterized in their written reports as Antifa, encroached, Meinecke took hold of an orange-and-white traffic sawhorse. Five protestors, some clad in all black and wearing body armor, picked up Meinecke and the sawhorse, moved him across the street, and dropped him on the pavement. One law enforcement officer who observed this interaction reported that “‘Antifa’ members … began to fight/assault”\ Meinecke.

Undeterred, Meinecke walked back to his original location by the federal building and resumed reading and held up a sign. While people gathered on the street, however, some approached Meinecke, knocked him down, and took one of his shoes.

Seattle police finally intervened. Although the officers acknowledged that the protestors had assaulted Meinecke, they took no action against the perpetrators. They instead ordered Meinecke to leave the area. The precise dictates of the officers’ order are in dispute. Meinecke maintains that the officers instructed him “to go where no one could hear [his] message or read [his] sign.” The city disagrees, claiming that Seattle police simply directed Meinecke to the other side of the street and that they told Meincke that he “could still display his banner and exercise his [F]irst [A]mendment rights.”
Regardless, Meinecke declined to go to a different location. The officers then arrested Meinecke for obstruction under Seattle Municipal Code Ordinance § 12A.16.010(A)(3), which provides, “A person is guilty of obstructing a police officer if, with knowledge that the person obstructed is a police officer, he or she … [i]ntentionally refuses to cease an activity or behavior that creates a risk of injury to any person when ordered to do so by a police officer.” The officers took Meinecke to the police precinct and kept him there for about two hours; they did not book him. Meinecke was released after the abortion protest ended…

Seattle’s annual PrideFest took place on June 26, 2022, two days after the Dobbs rally. The event was held at the Seattle Center, a public park. Meinecke, again dressed in a shirt and tie, entered the park around noon and began to read from the Bible in a conversational tone.

Eventually, PrideFest attendees noticed Meinecke’s presence. As the district court found, they began “dancing near him, holding up a flag to keep people from seeing him,” and making “loud noises so he could not be heard.” According to his complaint, “a couple of attendees stood close to Meinecke and howled and barked like dogs, and mocked Meinecke, while he read passages from the Bible. Meinecke did not engage with them.” Another individual poured water on Meinecke’s Bible. Meinecke kept reading aloud.

After a couple of hours, more PrideFest attendees gathered around Meinecke and began yelling. This attracted the attention of about ten law enforcement officers, who asked Meinecke “to move to a public area located outside the park.” Meinecke declined and continued to read from his Bible. A PrideFest attendee shouted at the officers, demanding Meinecke’s removal. The officers then told Meinecke “\that they were imposing a ‘time, place, and manner’ restriction on him and ordered him to leave the park.” Again, Meinecke declined to leave. The officers told Meinecke “that he was posing a risk to public safety,” and they again demanded he leave the park. Meinecke told the officers that he was not in any danger. The officers then arrested Meinecke for obstruction.

Meinecke again was taken to the precinct. This time, though, the officers booked him. He was later released on bond. At his hearing a few days later, the city informed Meinecke that it was not pursuing the charges against him at that time, but it warned Meinecke that “it could bring up charges for this incident at a later time.”

Constitutional expert Jonathan Turley wrote, “Note the protesters stole his Bible and assaulted him. Yet, the police threatened Meinecke with arrest and then took him into custody for failing to be silenced by the mob.”

He said, “The opinion is a major win for free speech at a time when this ‘indispensable right’ is under attack by an array of government, corporate, and academic interests. We have seen Democratic politicians use the threat of violence from the left as an excuse to bar pro-life and conservative speakers. Likewise, this has become a regular practice at universities in barring conservative speakers due to security concerns while liberal speakers are free to speak on campuses.”

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The post Christian assaulted for reading Bible aloud, so cops arrest HIM! appeared first on WND.

This article was originally published by the WND News Center.


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