Man fined for protest near Liberty Bell

June 14, 2008 12:40:36 PM PDT
The leader of a Christian evangelical group who expressed his religious views to tourists near the Liberty Bell was placed on one year's probation for refusing to move from a sidewalk where demonstrations are banned. Repent America director Michael A. Marcavage, 28, of Lansdowne, was sentenced Friday after a two-day bench trial. He was ordered to pay a $420 fine and told to notify the U.S. Park Service and get a permit if he planned to return to the site.

"Welcome to the new America," Marcavage said outside the courtroom. "God help us. We're all headed for trouble if this is the direction the country is going in."

Marcavage was charged on Oct. 6 while he and others preached their religious views and protested abortion on a sidewalk outside the building housing the Liberty Bell.

The sidewalk, although open to the public, was restricted by the National Park Service from demonstrations after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Officials at Independence National Historical Park offered Marcavage a demonstration site a half-block away, but he refused to move.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Arnold Rapoport found Marcavage guilty of violating a verbal permit and interfering with park rangers.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Rich Goldberg said the government has a right to regulate where demonstrations take place in a park that claims to draw more than 100,000 protesters a year.

"Nowhere does the law say that the government cannot regulate speech on a sidewalk used by the public," Goldberg contended in court documents.

Defense lawyer C. Scott Shields said he would appeal.