by Steven Ertelt
November 30, 2007
Atlanta, GA (LifeNews.com) — Pro-life advocates are headed back to Atlanta, Georgia with a truck with graphic abortion photos after police officials there arrested a man who drove one there previously. Bob Roethlisberger was arrested and jailed on the charge of "Disorderly Conduct" for driving the vehicle near a suburban shopping mall after Thanksgiving.
Gwinnett County Police Department officers arrested Roethlisberger after stopping the vehicle and telling him the abortion pictures were "vulgar and obscene."
Now, local officials say they will let volunteers with Operation Rescue, which owns the vehicle, return with another one to parade around city streets.
This time, they say no one will be arrested until city attorneys can determine if putting the abortion pictures on public display constitutes a crime.
When they arrested Roethlisberger, police cited a city provision referring to "the display of obscene and vulgar images visible to persons under age 14."
Cpl. Illana Spellman, spokeswoman for the Gwinnett County Police Department, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that they will let the group drive the truck within city limits until local courts can tell them if the ordinance is Constitutional.
"That’s no different from any other case that comes up like this," she said. "If there’s anything that’s a grey area and they’re trying to make a decision about it, the chief will tell officers not to make an arrest on that particular charge until the judicial circuit comes back with a decision."
Meanwhile, prosecutors are still trying to determine if they will prosecute Roethlisberger and a decision is expected to come in the next couple of weeks.
Troy Newman, the president of Operation Rescue, says he plans to drive the second truck to police headquarters and personally hand-deliver a a letter to Police Chief Charles Walters from the group’s attorneys asking that charges against Roethlisberger be dropped.
When he refused to stop the truck and remove the graphic pictures from it, Roethlisberger, a 44-year-old Missouri resident, was arrested and incarcerated for three days before being released on $1,200 bond.
Newman previously told LifeNews.com he is very upset that local police would destroy the group’s property and violate Roethlisberger’s free speech rights.
"Bob fully cooperated with officers, but refused to compromise on his message, which is unequivocally protected by the First Amendment," he said. "The officers misused their authority to punish Bob for expressing a viewpoint that ran counter to theirs. The arrest was nothing less than an egregious abuse of power."
Newman said the pro-life group got the vehicle out of police impound on Monday but indicated officials did thousands of dollars worth of damage to the truck and the banners.
Newman discussed the matter with Major Thomas Bardugon, who refused to drop the charges and threatened to arrest Newman if he drove the truck again with the banners re-attached.
He said the truck was in Georgia to highlight a new state initiative seeking to establish personhood for unborn children in the state.
"We intend to vigorously fight these unjust charges and will seek a remedy for our property loss," said Newman. "We cannot allow the illegal use of police authority to bully us into silence, when such silence could cost innocent human lives."