California City Pays Abortion Protesters for Denying Free Speech

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jul 6, 2005   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

California City Pays Abortion Protesters for Denying Free Speech Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
July 6, 2005

Long Beach, CA ( — The city of Long Beach and the local school district have agreed to pay four pro-life advocates who protested against abortion outside of a local high school. The settlement came after a lawsuit was filed saying they were wrongfully asked to leave a nearby area where they were holding up pro-life signs and distributing educational literature.

The city and school district agreed to pay $130,000 to the four pro-life advocates and it essentially ends the legal dispute.

The deal was struck after a federal judge ruled in November 2003 in favor of the four people and issued a preliminary injunction.

"It was an unusual situation that, frankly, in retrospect, was not properly handled by Millikan or by the Police Department," City Attorney Robert Shannon told the Long Beach Press Telegram newspaper.

In September 2002, the four pro-life people were outside the high school. The police told them they were trespassing because the sidewalk was considered school property and the principal didn’t want them there.

When threatened with arrest, three moved to a sidewalk across the street, but Dan McCullough refused saying he had a First Amendment right to be there.

Eric Milton, one of the four, videotaped the conversation with police, who demanded that he relinquish the tape to them. The police initially took the tape from Milton, though he ultimately received it back.

The police and school argued the sidewalk next to the school is not a public forum and, therefore, not protected under the First Amendment. The plaintiffs right to free speech could also be restricted, they said, because the students were a "captive audience," the materials distributed were "offensive," and the sidewalk technically belonged to the school.

The district court rejected each of those arguments when granting the injunction.

The city of Long Beach will pay the protesters $105,000 while the school district has agreed to pay $25,000, Shannon said.

The pro-life advocates were represented by Catherine Short, legal director of the Life Legal Defense Foundation, a pro-life law firm.

She told the Long Beach newspaper, "It’s a fair settlement" and added that it would have been less has the city and school district decided to settle initially.

Related web sites:
Life Legal Defense Foundation –