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City of Dearborn Records Vs. Acts 17 Video Footage
by Jason Smathers on August 1, 2010
On Friday, June 18, 2010, four members of Acts 17, a Christian Apologetics Group, were arrested while sharing their faith at the Arab Festival in Dearborn, Michigan as previously reported. Witnesses Unto Me obtained copies of the Arab Festival Rules and Police Reports and they are being compared to Acts 17 testimony and video.
The Testimony of Festival Volunteer, Roger Williams
The police report states:
Williams stated a film crew began recording him doing his festival duties. He advised the subjects (later identified as Negeen Mayel, Nabeel Qureshi, David Wood, and Paul Rezkalla) that he did not want to be filmed and told them to stop. Williams stated that they did not stop and instead, began to surround him. He added that he felt extremely uncomfortable and thought he could not leave although he attempted to several times. They continued to pester him and badger him with questions and continued filming. Williams again told them to stop filming. Qureshi and Wood, as well as Rezkalla, finally put down the microphone and camcorder to speak with him, but he noticed Mayel still filming within hearing distance. He radioed to security for assistance and the parties soon left. He advised Alslami that he wished to make a formal complaint with the police.
Alslami stated she observed the above incident as Williams had recalled. She stated she took photographs of the subjects with her camera for identification purposes, although she did not have same in her possession at the time of the report.
David Wood informed Witnesses Unto Me that two cameras captured this incident. However, one captured good video with poor audio and the other captured good audio with poor video. He anticipates Acts 17 will release this video by Tuesday, August 3rd. Without going to the video, David Wood recounts this incident much differently than the police report does:
(1) Roger was going up to people at the festival and accusing them of being part of Acts 17. He’s the one who took Luke to security. This is why Luke came and talked to us.
(2) As we were walking through the festival, we saw Roger once again talking to Luke (after Roger had already turned him in to police).
(3) Nabeel asked Luke if everything was okay.
(4) Luke said that everything was fine.
(5) Nabeel said, “I just wanted to make sure he’s not messing with you.”
(6) Roger said, “Don’t worry about me messing with him; worry about me messing with you.”
(7) Roger then got on his walkie-talkie and called security.
(8) We asked why he was calling security, and he said, “If you turn the cameras off, I’d be happy to tell you.”
(9) Roger then went and talked to security.
(10) A few minutes later, Roger and a Muslim woman were taking pictures of us.
(11) This was the criminal complaint against Negeen (who wasn’t anywhere near us when we talked to Roger)!
Roger lied repeatedly in his police report. He said he told us to stop recording, but he never said this. He said that Negeen heard him say this, and she wasn’t even close to him. He said that the Muslim woman witnessed all of this, when she later admitted she wasn’t even there.
In the near future, the audio and video will show us which version of this story is true.
The Arrest of Negeen Mayel
The police report states:
I approached Mayel and advised her that I was conducting a criminal investigation I needed her to stop filming in order to answer questions. She refused to comply by walking away from me, continuing to film and loudly asking “what criminal investigation”. I followed her and ordered her to shut the camcorder off so I could ask her questions pertaining to my investigation. She again refused by continuing to film, and looking to the large crowd where the other subjects were. She again began speaking very loudly in attempts to get the attention of the other subjects in the large crowd and tried to move closer to them. I placed my hand on her elbow and again ordered her to comply with my instructions and cooperate with my criminal investigation. She began to scream toward the crowd “Don’t touch me… get your hands off me” as she continued to film. Fearing she might incite a riot, I removed the camcorder from her hand and escorted Mayel from the inside of the tent and away from the crowd.
View the Acts 17 video footage of Negeen’s arrest, beginning at 3:42 on this YouTube video, following some narrative by David and Negeen:
The version of the police report read by David Wood is slightly different than the one released by the City of Dearborn. It is unclear why a discrepancy exists.
The arrests of Qureshi, Wood, and Rezkalla
The police report states:
I relayed the information to Sgt Mrowka and he advised us to arrest all parties involved for Breach of Peace. Ofc Micallef, Ofc Ballard, Ofc Smith, and I located Qureshi, Wood, and Rezkalla in the center of another large crowd in the middle of the two tents. When we advised them to turn their camcorders off and they were under arrest for Breach of Peace, they were hesitant but eventually complied. Wood even went as far as lifting the camcorder into the air in order to continue filming. Qureshi began screaming “See, I told you…I told you this stuff happens” to the large crowd who began taking pictures of us and surrounding us further. Fearing again that a riot would ensue, I requested Qureshi to remain quiet and ordered the crowd to vacate the area or they would be arrested. The large crowd complied and Qureshi, Wood, and Razkalla were placed under arrest (Handcuffed & Double-Locked) for Breach of Peace without further incident.
Acts 17 video cameras captured the following perspectives.
Nabeel and Paul’s Arrest:
The video of David Wood’s arrest shows no evidence of him putting the camera into the air nor is there any evidence of the police asking him to turn his camera off. The video of Paul and Nabeel’s arrests does show David Wood holding the camera up high for the purpose of filming Nabeel as he was answering questions. The video shows the police taking the camera from David Wood, telling him they are conducting a criminal investigation, then asking him to put his hands behind his back. The order of events on film is different from that of the police report.
Festival Rules and Laws
In response to a request for all festival rules, the City of Dearborn provided an evacuation plan and a food booth rules document. Neither of these documents contained any rule prohibiting leafleting, video taping, recording, or any activity in which the videos reveal Acts 17 to have been engaged in. When asked by Witnesses Unto Me, the Dearborn Police department was unable to provide an answer when asked what law prohibits leafleting within five blocks of the festival.
Civil Cases and Leafleting
Robert Muise, attorney for Acts 17, from the Thomas Moore Law Center says he is preparing for a civil case against the City of Dearborn. Mr. Muise says the purpose of the civil case is to end persecution of Christians in Dearborn Michigan. Muise also represents George Saieg, whom lost a lawsuit against the city seeking injunction against the police and allowing him to distribute tracts in the area just outside the festival known as the “buffer zone”. The buffer zone extends five blocks out from the festival parameter. The case is currently being appealed, and the appeals court issued a temporary restraining order against the police this year which allowed Pastor George Saieg to distribute tracts without fear of arrest. Unfortunately for Acts 17, this restraining order only protected Pastor George. Acts 17 was detained for the same action this year. David Wood said he was unaware of the policy preventing leafleting within five blocks and was not aware of Pastor George’s case until after he was detained for attempting to leaflet. Mr. Muise is hopeful in Pastor George’s case, noting that the appeals court must have thought his case was very strong in order to issue the temporary restraining order. If the decision in the lower courts is overturned and the appeals court sides with Pastor George, next year everyone would be free to distribute leaflets outside the festival.
City of Dearborn Mayor’s Response
The city of Dearborn, MI included a 5 page letter from their Mayor on top of the records request titled “Please consider the following before condemning us.” The letter is the same as many others have reported getting after inquiring about the Acts 17 arrest by Dearborn Police.
Nabeel Qureshi, a member of Acts 17, responded to the Mayor John O’Reilly Jr’s letter with a YouTube video refuting many of the allegations Mayor O’Reilly makes both in this letter and in interviews. Nabeel draws attention to the Mayor’s accusations are against the intentions of Acts 17, which is only his speculation. In his letter, the Mayor claims Acts 17 come with the intention of disrupting the festival and goes so far as to say that the city has been under attack for several years from Acts 17. Acts 17 says this was their second year at the festival and no evidence has been produced to the contrary. Others, such as Mary Jo Sharp, have throughly commented on the Mayor O’Reilly’s letter.
The City of Dearborn and Michigan’s Freedom of Information Act
The Michigan Freedom of Information Act requires a response within five days to a written public record request. Witnesses Unto Me sent the first written request for records on June 20th and received the responsive records on July 29th. The statue does allow for a ten day extension to be claimed by the city by issuing a letter with a reason for the delay stated and mailed within the first five days. The city did sent a letter, but never provided a reason for the delay. When the records were finally obtained, they were signed and dated on June 29th. The City of Dearborn had the responsive records, they had been reviewed and signed by an attorney on June 29th, but they were not delivered to Witnesses Unto Me until a month later on July 29, 2010. An attorney for the city informed Witnesses Unto Me via telephone that the only reason for delay was heavy volume of requests.