Judge orders Syracuse to pay attorney fees of 'Christian evangelist' protester

Jul 26, 2018

A federal judge has ordered the city of Syracuse to pay a judgment of more than $100,000, following a lawsuit from a protester of the city’s annual LGBTQ pride parade. The ruling states the protester’s free speech was violated.

James Deferio, a self-described ‘Christian evangelist,’ who preaches and protests events like the CNY Pride Parade with a banner and “personal voice amplifier,” brought a lawsuit against the city after police ordered him to move across the street from the festival’s entrance in 2014 and 2015.

The judge ruled that police could not restrict Deferio’s ability to protest by enforcing a “40-foot buffer zone.”

Deferio was awarded $1 in compensation but the city of Syracuse will have to pay $127,000 for Deferio’s attorney fees.

Syracuse Councilor-at-Large Steven Thompson, a former police chief, called the situation frustrating.

“Anytime that you have competing organizations, you set up a perimeter to keep people apart from one another so you don’t encounter civil disobedience,” Thompson said.

He said he thinks police did the right thing and were just doing what they thought was reasonable.

"It happens, you get second-guessed, you make determinations based on the best available information you have at the time," Thompson said. "Maybe they'll have to call the judge next time before they do something. They will take this and say okay, we can't do that in the future, we'll have to deploy a different way. I'm sure that's what they'll do."

The mayor's administration said they will bond for the payment and the Syracuse Common Council could approve the settlement next week.