Sixth Circuit holds that Wayne County law enforcement violated First Amendment rights of heckled group.
A group called the Bible Believers attended the 2012 Arab International Festival where they insisted on spreading their "anti-Islam" religious views. Not surprisingly, the crowd attending the Arab Festival considered their actions obnoxious hate-speech and they were heckled to the point of silence. A few people in the crowd apparently threw objects at the speakers. The Wayne County police in attendance refused to intervene and apparently made "no attempt" to protect the Bible Believers.
The Bible Believers sued the County alleging a violation of the First and Fourteenth Amendments protections of free speech and equal protection. In an "en banc" opinion with multiple dissents, the Sixth Circuit appellate bench held that the police did, indeed, violate the speakers' constitutional rights. The bench majority concluded that the speech was not an "incitement to riot" and that the "hecker's veto" enabled by law enforcement was an infringement of free speech based solely on the content of their [legal] speech. Since they were "peaceful speakers" in a public place who did not 'advocate for, encourage, condone or even embrace imminent violence or lawlessness" the police were obligated to intervene with the "mostly adolescent" bottle throwers who found the speech objectionable.