BALTIMORE (WJZ) — When Catholic bishops from around the country gather again in Baltimore in November, a conservative Catholic media group wants to make their voices heard on the church’s sexual abuse scandal.
They tried to rent the city-owned MECU Pavilion at Pier Six, even putting down a deposit.READ MORE: Jury Acquits Man Of Murder Of Baltimore Anti-Violence Advocate Dante Barksdale
But city leaders rejected their request. And now, the group, St. Michaels Media—also known as Church Militant—is suing and claiming their free speech rights are being violated.
“Every bit of our constitution requires that the city not interfere because they don’t like speakers who might want to speak on public property,” their lawyer, Marc John Randazza, told WJZ outside court Thursday.
Church Militant wants their protest to be held at the pavilion because they said the windows in the hallway outside the bishops’ conference room at the Marriott look out directly at the venue.
Father Paul Kalchik of Chicago, who said a priest abused him decades ago, is among those fighting Baltimore’s decision. He testified Thursday.
“It’s just like putting a muffler on the issue,” Kalchik told WJZ Investigator Mike Hellgren. “It is irritating to me that the city of Baltimore is stopping the victims from speaking out.”
But lawyers for Baltimore City argue this is not about freedom of speech.
The city fears violence in the expected crowd of three thousand people and cites incendiary speakers who are expected to attend—including Steve Bannon, the former Chief Strategist for President Trump, and Milo Yiannopoulos, a right-wing provocateur. A past appearance lead to violence in Berkeley, California in 2017. Yiannopoulos said he does not condone such violence.READ MORE: Baltimore City Public Schools Honors 12 Students Killed During 2021-22 School Year
“I’ve softened a bit over the years—it will sadden your viewers to discover—since I was in the headlines more,” Yiannopoulos said. “Remember what we’re doing here is not a politically charged rally for politically engaged people. What we are doing here is trying to hold a Catholic hierarchy to account.”
Bannon called for the beheading of Dr. Anthony Fauci on his podcast last year.
Church Militant held a similar protest at the bishops’ conference in Baltimore three years ago and said there was no violence then. That event attracted about one thousand people.
The hearing lasted more than eight hours Thursday in Baltimore’s federal courthouse. The judge will resume arguments Friday morning at 10 a.m.
“Because of the potential for significant disruption, the city has exercised its right to discontinue discussions with the Church Militant about the organization’s proposed event at the city-owned MECU Pavilion in November. The characteristics of the location and a concern about violence prompted this action,” Baltimore City’s law department said in a statement.
Here is Baltimore City’s opposition memorandum presented to the judge:MORE NEWS: No Injuries After Crash Involving 2 School Buses, SUV In Edgewood