Middletown man arrested at Pride event once won $1 from city after court dispute

For the second time in five years, a Middletown man was arrested and charged with generating unreasonable noise or banned from making religious speeches.

John M. Williams, 42, was arrested Friday night before the Pride rally in downtown Middletown and taken to Middletown City Jail. He posted 10 percent of his $1,500 bond and then returned to the event without further incident, he said.

MORE: Police arrest 2 at second-annual Middletown Pride event downtown

Williams said he, his family and others attended the Pride event to preach against “all sin.”

Williams appeared Monday morning for his arraignment in Middletown Municipal Court for the fourth-degree misdemeanor charge. Visiting Judge Robert Messham continued the hearing until July 8, according to court documents.

After the court hearing, Williams told the Journal-News that Middletown police were “in the wrong” because he was not using a megaphone at the time of his arrest.

In the police report obtained by this news agency, Sgt. Cris Kelly wrote he saw Williams carrying an amplified megaphone, something he had been warned against in the past. Kelly wrote that Williams powered on the megaphone, which was slung over his shoulder. Williams held the megaphone while another person spoke, according to the police report.

Kelly said he could hear the megaphone from about 100 feet away, a violation of the city ordinance.

The city ordinance, in part, says: “No person shall generate or permit to be generated unreasonable noise or loud sounds which is likely to cause inconvenience or annoyance to persons or ordinary sensibilities, by means of a radio, phonograph, television, tape or disc player, loudspeaker or any sound-amplifying device, or by means of any horn, drum, piano or other musical or percussion instrument.”

This is at least the second time Williams has been confronted by police about his behavior at city events.

In July 2014, Williams was told to stop preaching during a Broad Street Bash, a downtown concert series. In June 2015, the U.S. District Court of Southern District of Ohio ruled the City of Middletown had “unconstitutionally banned” Williams from “engaging in religious speech.”

The city was told to pay Williams $1 and his attorney fees.

The other person arrested Friday night was charged with assault. Paris Waller, 18, of Middletown, appeared for her arraignment Monday morning. Her case was continued until July 22, and she was appointed Cynthia Brandenburg as her attorney.

Middletown Police Chief Rodney Muterspaw said Saturday morning there were no additional issues at the event that continued at eateries and bars until 2 a.m.

“No other issues. Mostly a good crowd,” Muterspaw said. “We knew there would be some problems when you mix the event with protesters and they were handled appropriately.”

Organizers estimated 3,000 attended the second Pride event. It included a Pride flag giveaway, Pride Ride Bicycle Parade, Pride Drag Show and Gender Fluid Fashion Shows, Silent Disco and screening of the Greatest Showman.

Mel Kutzera, owner of West Central Wine and an organizer of the event, said she “absolutely appreciates” the right for freedom to assemble and freedom of speech.

But, she said, “we will fight hate with love.”

Plans are already under way for the third annual Pride event in downtown Middletown, she said.

Heather Gibson, owner of Triple Moon Coffee, another downtown business, said the Pride event was the largest attended event in recent memory.

“It was filled with love and good vibes,” she said. “We encompassed all walks of life, age, faith and races.”

As for Williams, Gibson said, “I support freedom of speech. I do not support hate and destruction speeches. He has the right to do it, but we have the right to overrule it with love.”

Staff writers Lauren Pack and Ed Richter contributed to this report.

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