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Dr. Romano, Freedom Activist, ARRESTED in JerusalemDr. Frank Romano for Salem-News.com
US author, attorney and interfaith activist arrested by Israelis.
(JERUSALEM) - I was leading an interfaith march/dialogue in the Old City on Tuesday, March 27th, 2012 when Israeli police surrounded and arrested me, seizing my bull-horn and poster (on which was written “Freedom March” in Arabic, Hebrew and English). Several people, Muslims, Christians and a Jew, were marching including a Czech activist and a Polish couple as well as a number of Palestinians. I was arrested in about the same place and carrying the same sign and bull-horn as in this photo which was taken on April 8, 2010 during a similar freedom march/dialogue.
As the police were conducting me to police headquarters deep in the Old City, I continued the dialogue, chanting in Arabic, “La ilaha illallah”, the equivalent in Hebrew: “Adonai, Elohaynu Adonai Echad”. I also chanted, “God the Father, God the Son and the Holy Ghost”. The police interrupted me and told me to be quiet; I responded by claiming my right to free speech. They did not interrupt me and I continued chanting until we reached police headquarters and the metal door shut behind me.
I entered a courtyard at police headquarters and was told to sit down as a policeman placed blow-horn and poster in the corner.
I questioned, “Wait a minute, what are the charges? I thought I have freedom speech in Israel?”
He told me I don't have free speech without authorization for the March in the Old City in Jerusalem. I responded that I had had 2 marches in the same place and I had never been arrested. He responded, “Impossible! I don’t believe it.” I told him to “believe it” and I have photos to prove it (see enclosed photo). He remained silent.
I waited in the courtyard during the preliminary investigation while the police captain had several telephone conversations during which I heard my name repeated several times. In addition, I overheard a discussion about my poster (“Freedom March” in English, Arabic and Hebrew) and whether it was a provocation of violence or even a riot.
Finally the police captain came out and told me that he was not going to formally arrest me and that he was going to send me in a car to the Jaffa Gate police for continued interrogation. I was led to khaki SUV by four policemen. One of them opened the door and pointed to the seat. After I sat inside he slid in next to me. The other three joined us and the SUV took off. They drove me to the Jaffa Gate police office where I was interrogated by the commanding officer. He spoke to the policemen who had accompanied me and then asked me to wait with them in the entrance and he would return.
After about 10 minutes, he approached me and told me the following. The sign: “Freedom March in English, Arabic and Hebrew” is OK. However, he said that my chanting the beginnings of 3 prayers (see above), saying” There is but one God”, was dangerous. He explained that if I chanted, “La illaha ilanla”, the Jews and Christians will misunderstand me and think I privilege Muslims and maybe attack me. He added, if I say, “Adonai, Elohaynu Adonai Echad” the Muslims and Christens will misunderstand me and will attack. I told him I disagreed that I’ve had marches/dialogues in the same streets before and if there was conflict, I tempered it by explaining that I was building bridges between Muslims, Jews and Christians and I had no favorites. After my explanation, the conflict diffused and any violent confrontation was avoided. I expressed to him that it seemed more an excuse by the police to take away my freedom of speech than to stop an attack or riot.
In addition, he claimed I violated the law by not requesting authorization for the march.
I then asked him if he would have granted me authorization if I had requested it and he said “no”.
Finally, the police captain informed me that I had barely escaped being hauled in before the judge, condemned to serve a jail sentence, then deported for violation of the law. He warned me that if he were ever to catch me leading marches in the Old City again and anywhere else in East Jerusalem, he would have me prosecuted, jailed and deported. On the other hand, he said that if I wanted to march in West Jerusalem, all I have to do is request authorization from the police precinct where the march will be held and the commander would grant it.
After two hours, I was finally released. As I wondered through the narrow corridors of the Old City “souk”, I wondered if the Israel government, in spite of opposition by thousands of Israelis, is unilaterally setting the stage for even a harsher police state?
See the PNN (Palestine News Network) article below announcing the event and the enclosed photo of a similar event I led in the Old City on April 8, 2010.
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Dr. Frank Romano is the author of STORM OVER MOROCCO, autobiographical narrative about following spiritual path while living with extremist religious sect. You can purchase the book at: amazon.com Storm Over Morocco
Learn more by visiting: frankromano-lt.com
Storm Over Morocco: http://www.soundauthors.com Frank Romano's Storm Over Morocco
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