PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Dom Giordano talked to Jason Gosselin, a lawyer for the Shops at Liberty Place, about a state Superior Court ruling that will allow a group calling themselves the Israelite School of Universal Practical Knowledge to continue their demonstrations around the corner of 16th and Chestnut in Center City.
Gosselin said the court, while upholding the speech rights of the Israelites, also provides an avenue of relief if their protests continue to infringe on private property.
“I don’t know whether the Shops are going to appeal this decision. If something else happened involving the Israelites or somebody else, they would actually go back to the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas and seek an injunction, but we now have something sort of definitive from the appeals court on what the standard ought to be. So we have some guidance where we didn’t really have that before.”
He insisted the Shops at Liberty Place are not interested in censoring speech, but rather this group’s invasion onto their property.
“If somebody wanted to have a political rally on my front yard and if everybody had to gather in my front yard, nobody would doubt that I have the ability to kick those people off. It doesn’t matter that you have an absolute First Amendment right to engage in political speech on a public sidewalk. I think it’s a simple case. I think everybody understands it.”
Gosselin also believes race plays a role in the way the city of Philadelphia has handled the Israelites.
“If this were a group of Klansman in West Philadelphia standing outside a small business owned by an African American proprietor, there is no doubt in anybody’s mind that they would last about ten seconds before the police hauled them away. It just simply would not happen. Here, it does. The Shops contact the police and the police come out and, kind of, monitor it to make sure that nothing gets out of hand and there isn’t any violence, but they don’t do anything otherwise, and I don’t think they would take the same approach if they were Klansman or something like that.”