Birmingham, Alabama Officials Arrest Pro-Life Advocates, Violate Free Speech
by Steven Ertelt
February 13, 2009
Birmingham, AL (LifeNews.com) — Local officials in the largest city in Alabama arrested a group of pro-life advocates who were sharing a message against abortion outside Parker High School. Nine college-aged participants in the Survivors Campus Life Tour were arrested on a public sidewalk while distributing literature to students Thursday.
The group of pro-life youth activists quietly held signs, distributed literature and peacefully dialogued with students on the public sidewalk.
Local officials threatened the pro-life advocates with arrest and they contact their attorneys, who informed them that their location on the public sidewalk and their free speech activity was legal according to local and state laws.
Once the members of the pro-life team finished distributing their literature and were loading their van in preparation to leave, officers handcuffed and arrested all nine pro-life advocates without warning.
One of the team members who did not assist in the distribution of literature was also arrested and handcuffed so tightly that it caused her to cry in pain.
Kortney Blythe, Director of Survivors Campus Life Tours, told LifeNews.com that she repeatedly asked Officer Cooley, one of the arresting officers, the reason for the arrests.
He kept assuring the team that they were not arrested, they were only being detained, and he did not know on what basis they would be charged. Police officials never informed the group the reason for their arrest as they were being handcuffed, and the team said one officer questioned his superiors, "What are we arresting them for again?"
The police confiscated the team’s video cameras and personal belongings, and impounded and searched their van. They also asked the location of their hotel so that could be searched as well.
The pro-life advocates are now being held in Birmingham City Jail, the jail from which Martin Luther King, Jr. issued his famous letter condemning apathy and injustice.
The group had an early Friday morning hearing, and were informed the pending charge was "criminal trespass."
All nine members of the Survivors Campus Life Tour have been released from custody.
The five female team members were released at approximately 7:00 a.m., and the four young men were released at 9:00 a.m.
Allison Aranda, a staff attorney with the Life Legal Defense Fund who is handling the case, told LifeNews.com, "I am in shock and disbelief that a person can be arrested for simply standing on a public sidewalk and handing out literature."
"If there is any principle that is so deeply rooted in this nation’s history it is the right of free speech, and it is shameful that those charged with upholding the law are in fact the ones that violated the Highest Law of the land today," the pro-life attorney added.
Related web sites:
Survivors – https://www.survivors.la
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