Pro­tester gets $10K for ar­rest

The Oklahoman (Sunday) - - FRONT PAGE - BY KYLE SCH­WAB Staff Writer kschwab@ok­la­homan.com

Ok­la­homa City is pay­ing a New Jersey woman $10,000 to set­tle claims she was un­law­fully ar­rested dur­ing a 2014 protest of a sa­tanic “black mass.”

Joan Bell, now 69, was ar­rested Sept. 21, 2014, af­ter she re­fused to cease kneel­ing while pray­ing the rosary on a land­ing at the top of the north steps of the Civic Cen­ter Mu­sic Hall. She said she at­tended the protest of the black mass, a par­ody of the Catholic Mass, to pray against the “hate crime” oc­cur­ring in­side.

Bell, a long­time ac­tivist, sued Ok­la­homa City and oth­ers in Septem­ber 2016. She claimed her civil rights had been vi­o­lated. This month, an Ok­la­homa City fed­eral judge ap­proved the $10,000 judg­ment.

“She wasn’t do­ing this to make money,” Bell’s at­tor­ney, Brian McCall, told The Ok­la­homan. “She wanted to get the city to see that the way they had treated her was not cor­rect.”

McCall said Bell is pleased the case reacheda mu­tual res­o­lu­tion and won't be dragged out any longer. In reach­ing the set­tle­ment, Ok­la­homa City did not ad­mit li­a­bil­ity in the case.

Bell was found guilty in 2015 of dis­or­derly con­duct and in­ter­fer­ing or ob­struct­ing by dis­obey­ing a law­ful com­mand. She was fined $1,000.

In 2016, the Ok­la­homa Court of Crim­i­nal Ap­peals over­turned the mu­nic­i­pal con­vic­tions due to in­suf­fi­cient ev­i­dence.

A per­son is guilty of dis­or­derly con­duct if that per­son in­ten­tion­ally in­hibits ac­cess to an en­trance to a pub­lic build­ing. The ap­peals court found that Bell knelt near an exit with no outer han­dle, so Bell didn't ob­struct ac­cess to the Civic Cen­ter dur­ing the event.

The ap­peals court also found that be­cause Bell was on pub­lic prop­erty and not tres­pass­ing, the or­der to leave given by po­lice was not law­ful. Be­cause of this, Bell wasn't dis­obey­ing a law­ful com­mand when she re­sisted of­fi­cers by not stand­ing and go­ing “limp” when ar­rested.

McCall is an at­tor­ney with the Le­gal Clinic at the Uni­ver­sity of Ok­la­homa Col­lege of Law. Bell also was rep­re­sented by the Amer­i­can Catholic Lawyers As­so­ci­a­tion. Her at­tor­neys rep­re­sented her for free.

[PHOTO BY NATE BILLINGS, THE OK­LA­HOMAN ARCHIVES]

Joan Bell was ar­rested Sept. 21, 2014, dur­ing a protest out­side the Civic Cen­ter Mu­sic Hall.

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