Yeah, That’s the Way to Persuade People

ABC News reports:

Christian protesters traveled across the country to Dearborn, Mich., where they taunted attendees and even held a severed pig’s head for three days at the annual Arab International Festival. The protests turned violent Sunday, and by the end of the day as many as 10 people facing disorderly conduct or assault charges, according to ABC News Detroit affiliate WXYZ.

“You’re going to burn in hell,” a missionary reportedly yelled at a group of Arab-American boys, while other protesters held anti-Muslim signs that made bigoted remarks about Islam and its prophet Mohammed, including “Islam is a religion of blood and murder” and “Muhammad (Islam’s prophet) is a … liar, false prophet, murderer, child molesting pervert.”

Young festival attendees later threw soda cans at the protesters and yelled, “Allah-U-Akbar” [God is the greatest], the Detroit Free Press reported.

Violence eventually broke out between festival goers and protesters, prompting Dearborn police to arrest a protest[er] they claim incited the violence. Some protesters say that they were attacked first.

It’s hard to tell exactly what happened, and whether the arrestee was arrested for simply stating opinions that led to retaliation, or for using constitutionally unprotected personal insults directed at a particular person (so-called “fighting words”). It’s possible the police behaved properly, for instance if the arrestee was indeed using fighting words — or attacking people first — and if the people on the other side were either just defending themselves, or couldn’t be identified. Or it’s possible that the police behaved improperly, for instance if they declined to arrest people who behaved violently, or arrested the arrestee simply for expressing his religious opinions. (Note that the other protesters weren’t arrested, even though they presumably were expressing similar religious opinions.)

But it’s hard to see how the protesters are likely to bring much goodwill or many adherents to their cause, either among their audience or among the public at large.