Saturday, July 29, 2006

Protester arrested at "Bewitched" statue files civil rights suit

via The Boston Globe

July 28, 2006

SALEM, Mass. --A man arrested while protesting at the unveiling of a statue of the star of the sitcom "Bewitched" has sued Salem police, charging them with civil rights violations and excessive force.

In the suit filed Thursday in federal court, Richard Sorell, 66, also accuses police of violating his free speech rights and denying him medical care while in custody. He's seeking unspecified damages from the city and several police officers.

"They pulled some very, very foolish things that day, and there's no excuse for it," Sorell told The Salem News.

Sorell, a local tour guide, was upset that a statue of Elizabeth Montgomery perched on a broom was erected so close to where innocent people were condemned to death during the Salem Witch Trials.

Sorell brought a homemade sign to the statue's unveiling in June 2005 that read "Elizabeth Who? Is she from Salem?" When he realized his sign couldn't be seen by television cameras, Sorell tried to move closer to the front of the crowd and was arrested after police said he nearly knocked over a 71-year-old woman.

A charge of disorderly conduct was dismissed in November after a judge said Sorell didn't mean to nearly knock down the woman.

Sorell's suit alleges that during his arrest a Salem officer twisted his arm back and threw him in a police van. Sorell says in his suit that while he was at the police station he was taunted, threatened with a strip search and denied access to his arthritis pain medication, which caused him to faint.

Salem police Chief Robert St. Pierre told The Salem News he couldn't comment because he hadn't seen the suit.

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