Ann Arbor Times

Ann Arbor Times

Friday, February 28, 2020

Synagogue member files lawsuit against anti-Israel protesters and Ann Arbor officials over years of protests

Local Government

By Karen Kidd | Jan 16, 2020

FreeImages - Dariusz Bargiel

A member of an Ann Arbor synagogue that has for years endured anti-Israel protests outside its front door is suing protesters and city officials over the protests, saying some restrictions on constitutionally protected free-speech is warranted.

Plaintiff Marvin Gerber, a member of Beth Israel Congregation on Washtenaw Avenue in Ann Arbor, claims in his 85-page complaint filed last month in U.S. District Court for Michigan's Eastern District that the protesters' rights end where the congregants' rights begin.

"The conduct of the protesters is infringing on the First Amendment right of congregants to exercise their freedom of religion without being harassed and insulted by protesters," the lawsuit said. "The city, by its failure to enforce its own code provisions to curtail the protesters' conduct, is aiding and abetting the protesters harassment of the congregants."

The city's actions effectively make the protesters "state actors" and "co-conspirators" under federal law, the lawsuit said.  

The protests have been happening every Saturday since September 2003 for 16 years, according to the lawsuit, which specifically pointed to defendant Henry Herskovitz for leading the protesters.

"The protesters arrive every Saturday morning, which is the Jewish Sabbath, at approximately 9:30 a.m., position their signs/placards in place, and stay until approximately 11 or 11:30 a.m.," the lawsuit said. "The time period coincides with the time when members of the synagogue arrive to enter the synagogue in order to conduct and participate in the Sabbath service."

Other protesters named as defendants in the lawsuit are Gloria Harb, Tom Saffold, Rudy List, Chris Mark, in addition anti-Israel groups Deir Yassin Remembered and Jewish Witnesses for Peace and Friends.

City officials named as defendants are Mayor Christopher Taylor, City Attorney Stephen Postema, Senior Assistant City Attorney Kristen Larcom and Community Services Administrator Derek Delacourt.

Gerber is seeking an injunction to either stop the protests or to place limits on those protests. Gerber also asked for a jury trial and damages for emotional distress from the protesters and the city

The case has been assigned to U.S. District Court Judge Victoria A. Roberts.

Gerber is represented by Canton attorney Marc M. Susselman.

U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan case number 2:19-cv-13726-VAR-MJH

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