Lawsuit filed against police, Macomb County prosecutor for protester’s arrest

By: Kara Szymanski | Shelby-Utica News | Published August 8, 2022

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SHELBY TOWNSHIP — A local activist believes he was wrongly arrested and charged for exercising his right to protest in Shelby Township in 2020. Two years later, the claim is headed to federal court.

The Rev. W.J. Rideout Jr. and others staged the 2020 protest that blocked the intersection of 23 Mile Road and Van Dyke Avenue in Shelby Township following remarks made online about protesters by Shelby Township Police Chief Robert Shelide that led to the Shelby Township Board of Trustees suspending him for 30 days and sending him for cultural and sensitivity training.

The suit says Rideout was wrongfully arrested and charged with a misdemeanor on July 22, 2020, two days after exercising his right to free speech at the protest in calling for the chief’s resignation.

The lawsuit has been filed against Shelby Township, the Shelby Township Police Department, Shelide, numerous Shelby Township police officers, Macomb County, Macomb County Prosecutor Peter Lucido and other prosecutors for their roles in Rideout’s arrest and prosecution.

A judge in April dismissed the misdemeanor charge, according to the lawsuit against Rideout, stating that the arrest two days after the protest was “unusual” and that there was not sufficient evidence to sustain the charge. The district court also rejected a motion from the prosecution to reconsider the dismissal, the lawsuit states. The lawsuit alleges that the actions taken against Rideout were meant to silence him and did not treat him the same as protesters that summer who protested in support of the Police Department.

Shelby Township Attorney Rob Huth said Rideout was arrested for taking his protest into a busy roadway.

“The only rule was that we asked folks not to step out into the road. And that’s what you’re going to find out in this lawsuit. The underlying allegation is that people were given citations that stepped out into the road. (Van Dyke) is busy, and we didn’t want people there,” he said via email.

Huth said Shelby Township police asked Rideout many times to move back to the sidewalk from the roadway.

“Shelby Township officials and police officers went the extra mile to protect free speech rights during the summer of 2020. Protesters were given access to the township grounds on short notice and without a permit. Those that were unable (to) attend in person were given access to the Township Board members during Zoom meetings. Many of those public comment sessions lasted more than five hours. For obvious reasons, protestors in the Township were directed to stay off roads during their demonstrations. Shelby Police asked the plaintiff many times to move off the road and back on to the sidewalk. He refused. He was finally issued a citation. (Frankly), he was given many more chances than others would have under the same circumstances,” he said.

The lawsuit demands compensatory and punitive damages, plus attorney’s fees.

Rideout’s attorney, Azzam Elder, did not respond to a request for comment before press time.

Lucido released a statement on the lawsuit. The statement noted that the misdemeanor traffic charge against Rideout was authorized during the administration of the previous Macomb County prosecutor; Lucido won the election and took office approximately six months later.

“We look forward to our day in court and believe the lawsuit against my assistant prosecutors and me is likely to be dismissed,” Lucido stated.