Quran-burning pastor plans to protest at Mich. mosque, despite judge’s order

Posted April 23, 2011, at 6:48 p.m.
Last modified April 23, 2011, at 7:36 p.m.

DETROIT — Shocked and outraged, the Rev. Terry Jones said he intends to return to Dearborn, Mich., this week to protest outside City Hall against the denial of his First Amendment rights. The Quran-burning pastor from Florida was briefly handcuffed and jailed by Dearborn police Friday after a trial stemming from an unusual complaint filed by Wayne County prosecutors.

“It was a total violation of our Constitutional rights,” Jones told the Free Press Saturday in an interview from Detroit Metro airport where he waited for a flight back to Florida. “It was a mockery of the judicial process.”

Earlier, Jones said he was going to rally at a Dearborn mosque.

Jones said he changed his mind about going to the mosque because of potential litigation.

Jones also said he’s considering filing a lawsuit against Wayne County and Dearborn authorities and he plans to rally at 5 p.m. Friday. County prosecutors had filed a complaint to make Jones stay away from the mosque for a planned rally because they said it would breach the peace. A jury sided Friday with prosecutors and Jones was led to jail.

“I was shocked,” Jones said. “I was horrified.”

He’s concerned about a system where “you arrest people who have committed absolutely no crimes.”

Dearborn Mayor John O’Reilly Jr. said late Friday that the city respects the constitution but said the right to free speech can’t interfere with public safety and the rights of others. He said the city had serious concerns about public safety which is why they did not want him to protest at the mosque.

Jones said he and Wayne Sapp, another pastor from Florida who joined him for Friday’s event, were photographed and had their pockets emptied, per standard procedure for booking criminals. Jones said “there was a lot of confusion” by Dearborn police after he was booked because his case was so unique. One officer couldn’t find any charge in the computer system to book him on, Jones said.

And Jones said one officer told him that he might face three years in prison if he didn’t post the $1 bond that Judge Mark Somers set. Jones had refused in court to pay, but later changed his mind.

“We had proven our point,” Jones said, explaining his decision to post the bond.

Jones said he intends to keep on speaking about what he sees as the threat of Islamic extremism. He worries that it might come to the U.S., which was why he came to Dearborn. He said he lived in Europe and saw first-hand the growing influence there of radical Islam.

“Now is the time to speak out before that happens,” Jones said.

Jones first said he planned to protest this week at the Islamic Center of America in Dearborn, despite a judge’s order that he stay away from the mosque for three years.

The Quran-burning pastor from Florida said his rights were violated Friday by a judge due to the influence of Islamic law.

“The arrests, the whole proceedings, were a definite violation of our Constitutional rights,” Jones said. “As a matter of fact, we were arrested and had not even committed a crime. It is a complete violation of our First Amendment right of freedom of speech. It was clearly influenced by the mosque.”

Jones had wanted to protest Friday against jihad and sharia outside the Islamic Center, but was thwarted by authorities. The center is the largest mosque in metropolitan Detroit, a region with a sizable Muslim population.

On Friday, Judge Mark Somers ordered that Jones and Sapp be remanded to jail after a jury determined they would be likely to breach the peace. In his decision, Somers set a $1 cash bond for Jones and Sapp, and also said Jones and Sapp could not go to the mosque or adjacent property for three years.

The only exception would be if the leadership of the mosque, such as its board, decided it would be OK for him to visit, Somers said.

Jones said that was an example of the influence of sharia, or Islamic law, in Dearborn.

“Sharia is much closer than we thought,” Jones said. “The judge even made a statement, that if the mosque elders and leadership would have desired the restraints placed on us of not going near the mosque be lifted, then he would have taken that into consideration. Thus proving that this whole thing is a direct violation of freedom of speech and that they are favoring the religion of I slam.”

Jones also questioned why he was allowed to protest at a free-speech zone in front of Dearborn City Hall but not at the mosque.

Dearborn Mayor O’Reilly said that he and his city fully support free speech, but added that the right is not absolute. It has to take into consideration the rights of others and public safety. He has said repeatedly that there is no sharia at all being practiced by Dearborn officials.

The mayor said Friday that police would take appropriate action if Jones decides to ignore the judge’s orders to stay away from the mosque.

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