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The city of Dearborn, Mich., has agreed to pay Christians who were arrested at its Arab International Festival in 2010, remove all criticism of them from a city website and post a public apology that will remain online for years, according to a legal team on the case.
The American Freedom Law Center said today that the settlement follows more than two years of court negotiations and resolves the Christians’ claims against the city.
It does not, however, remove the Dearborn Arab Chamber as a defendant in the case, which will continue.
The Christians were arrested in 2010 by city authorities for preaching peacefully to Muslims at the city festival.
Christian missionaries Nabell Qureshi, David Wood and Paul Rezkalla were jailed by the city June 18, 2010, and charged with “breach of the peace.”
Robert Muise, AFLC co-founder, represented the team in a five-day criminal trial in which they were acquitted by a jury.
The Christians then filed a civil rights lawsuit against the city, naming Dearborn, Mayor John B. O’Reilly, Police Chief Ronald Haddad, 17 officers and two executives from the American Arab Chamber of Commerce. The Arab Chamber itself later was added.
The case alleged an egregious violation of the Christians’ rights.
The AFLC said the city now has agreed to a settlement, including a public apology “that will be posted on the city’s website for three years,” the removal of other information about the case from the website and the payment of a confidential amount to the Christians.
“For too long our clients have been vilified for simply exercising their constitutional right to evangelize on a public street during the Arab Festival,” Muise said. “And despite their acquittal, they continued to be treated as if they had committed a crime. With this settlement and apology, our clients have been vindicated and this dispute with the city will finally be put to rest.”
David Yerushalmi, co-founder of the organization, said that while the dispute with the city is over, there is still unfinished business with the Arab Chamber.
“As the city itself noted in its apology, Arab Festival volunteers and workers, who were acting under the guidance and direction of the Arab Chamber and its executive director, Fay Beydoun, and pursuant to the chamber’s festival ‘rules and regulations,’ are similarly responsible for the violation of our clients’ rights, and we intend to hold them accountable,” he said.
The city’s statement:
On June 18, 2010, David Wood, Nabeel Qureshi (co-founders of Acts 17 Apologetics) and Paul Rezkalla were arrested by Dearborn police officers at the Dearborn Arab International Festival (“Arab Festival”), while they were engaging in a peaceful dialogue about their Christian faith with several festival attendees. Wood, Qureshi, and Rezkalla were subsequently charged with breach of peace, a misdemeanor offense.
The decision to arrest these individuals was based in part on information provided to the Dearborn police by Arab Festival attendees, workers, and volunteers. When all of the information—including the video captured by Wood, Qureshi, and Rezkalla—was presented to a Dearborn jury, the jury found that these individuals were not guilty of the criminal offense of breach of peace.
The city of Dearborn regrets and apologizes for the decisions to arrest and prosecute David Wood, Nabeel Qureshi, and Paul Rezkalla and the hardship caused to everyone involved.
Through this apology and its acceptance by David Wood, Nabeel Qureshi, and Paul Rezkalla, the parties seek to build a bridge and to confirm to the community that members of all faiths are welcome in Dearborn to peacefully share their views and to engage in religious discussions.
WND has been reporting on the case since it developed. Most recently, a federal judge had ruled that the Christians are allowed to sue the Arab Chamber of Commerce.
“The court finds that plaintiffs do properly allege a civil conspiracy among defendants, including the AACC, to deprive plaintiffs of their constitutional rights sufficient to survive a motion to dismiss,” the court’s ruling said.
The judge, Stephen J. Murphy III, in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, granted AFLC’s request to amend its complaint on behalf of the missionaries “unlawfully arrested for preaching the Gospel to Muslims at the 2010 Arab International Festival.”
The tensions in Dearborn, actually, has deteriorated since 2010. A video made during the 2012 event shows a crowd of angry Muslims throwing chunks of concrete and eggs at a different and unconnected team of Christians, spraying them with urine and cursing at them as police stood by and then threatened the victims with “disorderly conduct.”
A lawsuit has been filed over that confrontation as well.
The video says authorities not only failed to protect the Christians, they ordered them to leave the Arab festival under threat of arrest for “disorderly conduct.”
However, not one Muslim was arrested for the attack, which left several members of the Christian group bloodied, the video says.
The video, and a related complaint, showed the crowd – reminiscent of a rock-throwing “intifada” scene from the Middle East – hurling a dizzying barrage of objects at the Christians standing passively with their signs, causing some injuries.
WND later learned that the Christian crowd had been carrying a pole with a pig’s head attached to the top, further angering the Muslim crowd. At the beginning of the video, Christian street preachers shout, “God is good, and God is not Allah!”
A the 2:17 mark of the video, the mob can be heard screaming: “You want to jump ’em? C’mon, let’s go!”
One boy yells, “Let’s beat the sh-t out of them!”
A girl shouts, “Go home! Do you understand English?!”
The Christians are no longer using megaphones, as the mob advances on them from all angles, hurling bottles, cans, eggs, chunks of concrete and even milk crates toward their heads.
Despite the attacks the Christians had endured, a man identified in the video as Deputy Chief Dennis Richardson of the Wayne County Sheriff’s Office tells them, “You’re a danger to the safety right now.”
Officers claim they don’t have the manpower to protect the Christians at the festival.
“Your safety is in harm’s way. You need to protect everybody,” said Deputy Chief Mike Jaafar of the Wayne County Sheriff’s Office. “You do have the option to leave. I just want to make that clear.”
Israel replied, “You have the option to stand with us” as Jaafar walked away, leaving the Christians to the mob.
When police leave, the crowd continues harassing the Christians and screaming profanities.
Then police begin escorting the Christians away from the crowd.
Deputy Chief Richardson tells Israel: “We have the responsibility of policing the entire festival, and obviously your conduct is such that it’s causing a disturbance and is a direct threat to the safety of everyone here. Someone could get hurt. You already have blood on your face. One of the festival people, one of my officers, anybody can get hurt. Now we’re going to escort you out.”
Israel explains that the mob throws things and becomes more aggressive when police leave the scene.
“Part of the reason that they throw things on someone is because you tell them stuff that enrages them,” Richardson argues.
AFLC said the Christians were wearing shirts with Scripture quotes and Christian messages.
AFLC attorneys already successfully have litigated several challenges on behalf of Christians whose rights were violated in Dearborn, which has one of the largest Muslim populations in the United States.
The team said, for example, a Christian pastor was banned from handing out Christian literature in 2009, and the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decided the pastor’s First Amendment rights were trampled.
(Editor’s note: The following 22-minute video contains profane statements shouted by an angry mob and may be offensive to viewers.)