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Gainesville pastor blocked from demonstration in Mich.

DEARBORN, Mich. — A Florida pastor's planned demonstration outside a Michigan mosque was scuttled Friday after a jury determined the protest would constitute a breach of the peace and he was briefly jailed for refusing to pay what authorities called a "peace bond."

The Rev. Terry Jones, whose past rhetoric against Muslims has inflamed anti-Western sentiment in Afghanistan, said he refused to pay the $1 bond because to do so would violate his freedom of speech. He later paid it and was released.

Jones had planned a demonstration Friday outside the Islamic Center of America in Dearborn, a suburb of Detroit that is home to one of the largest Muslim communities in the nation. About 30,000 people in Dearborn, about a third of the city's population, trace their roots to the Middle East.

Prosecutors worried the protest would lead to violence and asked Dearborn District Judge Mark Somers to intervene. Somers conducted a one-day jury trial to determine whether Jones would pose a threat to peace. They did, and Somers then ordered Jones and an associate to post the bond to cover the costs of police protection. While largely symbolic, the bond also came with conditions that included a prohibition on Jones from going to the mosque or the adjacent property for three years.

Somers said he spoke to the jurors after they reached their verdict and they told him they were concerned with the "time, place and manner and not the content of the speech."

But Robert Sedler, a constitutional law professor at Wayne State University, called the entire proceedings unconstitutional. He said the U.S. Supreme Court has found that it's the job of the police to protect speakers at such events and said it is unconstitutional to require protesters to post a bond for police protection.

The state law allowing a judge to require a bond "for preservation of public peace" originally dates to 1846. As recently as 1999, the state Court of Appeals upheld it as constitutional in a case involving feuding neighbors who sought peace bonds against each other.

A burning of the Koran in March at Jones' church in Gainesville led to a series of violent protests in Afghanistan that killed more than a dozen people.

Wayne County prosecutor Kym Worthy cited fears that Jones could incite violent counterprotests.

Gainesville pastor blocked from demonstration in Mich. 04/23/11 [Last modified: Saturday, April 23, 2011 12:51am]

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