Judge bars racially charged protests from private property

Posted: May 25, 2013

A Common Pleas Court judge has blocked a religious group from holding loud, racially charged demonstrations in front of the entrance to One Liberty Place at 16th and Chestnut Streets.

Judge Ellen Ceisler, in a ruling issued Thursday, barred gatherings by a group that the owners of One Liberty Place said spewed hatred toward whites, women, and gays. They said the demonstrations disrupted the peace, disturbed passersby, and interferred with business at nearby shops.

The group, which calls itself the Israelite School of Universal Practical Knowledge, gathered weekly, bullhorns in hand, and chanted offensive rants, according to a suit filed by the owners of One Liberty Place.

Jason Gosselin, a lawyer for One Liberty Place, sued the group Tuesday and asked Ceisler to bar it from continuing its assemblies.

The demonstrations featured about a half-dozen men with thick beards, dressed in robes and using bullhorns to shout at pedestrians. Among their rants, the suit said, were these: "The white man is the devil," and "A woman need to shut her . . . mouth."

Efforts to reach leaders of the group were unsuccessful Friday. E-mails seeking comment went unanswered.

On its website, the group said it followed the King James version of the Bible and encouraged African Americans, Hispanics, and Native Americans to embrace their history.

In her ruling, Ceisler said the group's gathering spot outside the Shops at Liberty Place was private property.

She said the group could assemble on the public sidewalk as long as its demonstrations did not block pedestrian access. She also ordered it to apply for a city permit for future demonstrations that involve audio equipment.

"We are very pleased," Gosselin said. "The court recognized that the demonstrations took place on private property."


Contact Vernon Clark at 215-854-5717 or vclark@phillynews.com.

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