Jordan Kushner, legal observer harassed during anti-Israel protest at Wolves game, speaks out
Kushner (top right, corner) was pushed around by a Target Center employee and grabbed by police for seemingly no good reason.
Twin Cities attorney Jordan Kushner is a National Lawyers Guild Legal Observer. As such, he attends protests to make sure private security and law enforcement respects demonstrators' rights even when situations become tense.
But at Tuesday night's Timberwolves preseason game against Maccabi Haifa B.C., Kushner became became part of the story. While filming Target Center security's response to a pro-Palestinian, anti-Israel protest, a Target Center staffer accused Kushner of pushing him. Cops promptly escorted him out of the arena and cited him for disorderly conduct.
Video of the incident can be watched here. Yesterday, City Pages reached out to Kushner, who was characterized by the Star Tribune in 2010 as "the go-to attorney for Twin Cities protest groups taking on the establishment," to get his take on the way security and police handled the T-Wolves game protest.
Kushner characterized the security guard's "don't push me!" reaction and law enforcement's decision to eject him from the game as "orchestrated."
"The main arresting officer was saying how he didn't like the protest... he wasn't operating based on the facts," Kushner said.
Security guards went around the arena and asked people waving Palestinian flags and pro-Palestinian placards to put them down, yet fans waving Israeli flags were left alone.
"It's amazing that free speech can be so cavalierly cut off there," Kushner said. "I wasn't doing anything but observing, trying to explain to security guards and police that these folks [i.e., pro-Palestinian protesters] have the same free speech rights... It just added to the egregiousness that I was there to observe what was happening."
As an attorney who often works with protesters who have their rights trampled on, Kushner said he isn't surprised by the way things played out on Tuesday night.
"There certainly is a lot of abuses of people who protest. That's why I'm involved in the angle that I am," Kushner said. "What happened wasn't a huge shock to me, but it shouldn't be happening."
"Our system doesn't live up to its commitment to free speech on many occasions," he continued. The anti-Israel protesters "know it is a politically contentious issue and are trying to bring it to public attention and here you have the people who run the arena working in concert with the police to prevent people from speaking... Israeli banners were all over and nobody came to talk to them."
The bottom line, Kushner said, is that the Target Center is a publicly owned arena, and as such, the free speech rights of all should be respected.
"There's no question that this is a public place, a public forum, and free speech isn't based on what people want to hear," he said. "It's disturbing that someone charged with enforcing law has no appreciation and concern for free speech."
As far as his disorderly conduct citation goes, Kushner said he won't take it lying down.
"Obviously I'm not going to plead guilty to something I didn't do," he said. "I wouldn't have a client do that, and I certainly won't."
To read the MPD police report written after Kushner was cited, click to page two.
On 10-16-12, Officers were working off-duty at the Target Center, Off-duty call number #6101. The vent that was taking place at this sports facility was Minnesota Timberwolves basketball. The Timberwolves were playing an exhibition game vs a pro team from Israel. During the very beginning of the basketball game, Target Center security reported numerous disturbances that were taking place in the stands amongst fans. There were offensive banners being hung and displayed by fans as well as fans taunting each other in the stands. Officers were called to section 111 at the Target Center. There were numerous fans yelling at each other and demanding that a certain group of fans be removed because this group was offensive and shouting racial slurs at other fans. The disturbing fans were also displaying homemade signs and flags that were deemed offensive to other people. AP/Kushner was one of the fans causing a disturbance. AP/Kushner was eventually cited for disorderly conduct and escorted out of the sports arena without further incident.
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