Anti-abortion group sues Detroit, says free speech rights violated by police

click to enlarge Created Equal protesters. - STEVE NEAVLING
Steve Neavling
Created Equal protesters.

An anti-abortion group is suing the city of Detroit, claiming police violated their free speech rights during the Democratic presidential debates in July.

In a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court, the group, Created Equal, alleges police imposed “speech restrictions” near the Fox Theatre downtown.

“From the moment we arrived, Detroit Police harassed and mistreated us,” Mark Harrington, Created Equal's founder and president, said in a statement. “We were silenced by police several times over the course of the two days for attempting to express our free speech rights.”

The group is known for protesting with enormous images of aborted fetuses. Police forbid protests in front of the Fox Theatre and created a small “free speech area” on both sides of Woodward near Grand Circus Park. On July 30, Metro Times spotted officers segregating protest groups by political affiliation.

Harrington was briefly handcuffed after refusing to leave the parking lot of St. John’s Episcopal Church.

“The City’s ‘restricted area’ prevented Plaintiffs from engaging in free speech activity in traditional public forums, it was overbroad and unreasonable, it was not narrowly tailored to serve a significant government interest, and it did not leave open ample alternative channels of communications to permit Plaintiffs to reach their intended audience with their message, in violation of the First Amendment,” the lawsuit states.

Detroit’s top attorney, Lawrence Garcia, said the city did nothing wrong.

“We are confident in the city's position in this case and look forward to defending it in court,” Garcia said in a statement. Beyond that we will not be commenting on this litigation.”

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