‘The scope of the protest zones was expanded to include anyone attending the event who had an opinion…’
(Claire Russel, Liberty Headlines) A Spokane court has dismissed criminal charges against pastor Afshin Yaghtin, who was arrested in June for praying at a Drag Queen Story Hour event outside a public library.
Yaghtin was charged with obstruction after he approached a line of police officers outside the library.
Protests had been taking place, but the Pacific Justice Institute says he was not involved with the protesters. The officers prevented Yaghtin from entering the library, and after a short dialogue, he was arrested.
“What’s the charge,” asked a man filming the police as they cuffed Yaghtin.
“You’re obstructing,” one police officer responded. “[You’re obstructing] this event and our duty to provide security.”
PJI argued in court that law-enforcement’s actions violated the First Amendment rights, and the judge agreed.
“The scope of the protest zones was expanded to include anyone attending the event who had an opinion about the event, regardless of whether they were protesting or creating a disturbance,” the judge wrote.
Yaghtin was arrested because of his beliefs not because he was creating a disturbance, said PJI President Brad Dacus.
“He was discriminated against and told he had to leave simply because they identified him as a pastor and a Christian who would not agree with what was being read to the children,” Dacus said in a statement.
Because of controversy leading up to the Drag Queen Story Hour, Spokane police pre-emptively assigned many officers to the event to ensure public safety.
According to the Spokesman–Review, an estimated 400 people came out to support the event while 200 protestors demonstrated on the opposite side of the street.
Sgt. Terry Preuninger of the Spokane police said the elevated law enforcement presence is common practice.
“You see that in communities across the country,” he said.