Issue of Anti-Semitism Raised in Beach Store Arrests
MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (AP) _ The arrests of 26 merchants on charges of selling sexually explicit T-sirts have raised questions of anti-Semitism and constitutional rights in this beach resort city.
″That’s ridiculous,″ said Mayor Bob Grissom, who said the sweep was designed to get offensive T-shirts off the streets.
The allegations of anti-Semitism surfaced outside a police station Tuesday when those arrested were released on bail. Several defendants and their relatives, who would not identify themselves, complained they were targets of the probe because they were Jewish.
″They feel very badly that they were mistreated,″ said Rabbi Doran Aizenman of Chabad Lubavitch, who met and prayed with the defendants at the jail. ″I think it’s natural that’s (anti-Semitism) one of the things that came up.″
Eighteen of the 26 people arrested were Jewish, Aizenman said Wednesday, adding that 17 were from Israel.
Rabbi Rubin Kesner of Temple Emanuel, a conservative Jewish congregation, said the issue of anti-Semitism ″is merely a nasty ploy by this group that has been challenged with illegality in their business.″
Kesner said those arrested are not part of his congregation but added ″the Jewish teaching is the law of the land supersedes all other laws.″
Kesner said that during his 24 years in Myrtle Beach ″I have never had an anti-Semitic experience.″
Many of those arrested have declined to talk with reporters, saying they are afraid their complaints might lead to more legal problems.
″Police didn’t tell us what not to sell. I just don’t know exactly what’s going on,″ said Solomon Castro, a store owner who was arrested. He said he would stop selling T-shirts when told which ones not to sell.
Those arrested are charged with violating state obscenity statutes, a felony offense punishable by up to three years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
Under state law, something is considered obscene if it appeals to the prurient interest in sex, is patently offensive and, when applied to contemporary standards, has no artistic, political or scientific value.
Police began buying T-shirts in beach shops over the weekend. They were shown to Solicitor Jim Dunn who told authorities which decals would be considered obscene under state law. Police have not confiscated any T-shirts from the stores.
One of the T-shirts carried a cartoon of a male sex organ wearing a condom with the slogan ″Captain Condom″ on the front.
Jack Flom, an attorney representing the merchants, said they were hoping to get a national organization such as the Anti-Defamation League involved in the matter.
Bonds in the case were set at amounts ranging from $10,000 to $30,000 by City Judge Dwight C. Lambe. All those arrested were released by early Wednesday morning.
The amount of the bonds was in the same range as those set in three recent murder cases in the county.
Circuit Judge Don Rushing has agreed to review the bail.
The bond amounts brought fire from Steve Bates, the executive director of the state chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union.
He called them an ″outrage,″ adding ″jaywalking is more dangerous than these shirts.″