Birmingham, Alabama Dismisses All Charges Against Pro-Life Protestors
by Steven Ertelt
July 23, 2010
Birmingham, AL (LifeNews.com) — The city of Birmingham’s legal department dismissed all criminal charges against nine members of the Survivors pro-life group after losing a case about an incident involving its police department.
The pro-life people were arrested in February 2009 and jailed overnight for displaying pro-life signs and handing out literature on a public sidewalk outside a high school in Birmingham.
The pro-life youth activists were represented by Life Legal Defense Foundation staff attorney Allison Aranda, along with local attorney Nicholas Beckham.
Despite video evidence of the events showing the team peacefully and lawfully exercising free speech rights on the public sidewalk, the City filed trespass charges against the individuals claiming that the young people unlawfully entered school property.
"While we are elated that justice has finally come to the nine youth who were falsely arrested," said Dana Cody, Executive Director of the Life Legal Defense Foundation, "these meritless charges should have been dismissed long ago."
"The City’s delay in doing what justice demands has cost these young people employment opportunities and sullied their reputations for the past year and a half," she said.
The decision came after a federal district court in Alabama approved a consent order ensuring that police in Birmingham will not interfere with the expressive activities of the pro-life youth group.
LLDF told LifeNews.com in June that the pro-life young people were unlawfully arrested in February 2009 and they spent more than 14 hours in jail for holding signs and handing out literature on a public sidewalk in front of a local high school.
The pro-life advocates are members of the pro-life activist youth group Survivors of the Abortion Holocaust and they were handing out literature to students as they left the building at the end of the school day.
They want to come back to Birmingham and do the same thing and the lawsuit was filed to ensure their First Amendment rights are protected.
Because the Survivors planned to travel to Birmingham this month to participate in various pro-life activities scheduled for late July, they asked LLDF to obtain a preliminary injunction to ensure that they would not suffer the same treatment from police as they had last year. In the course of seeking that injunction, LLDF lawyers learned that the city had a "demonstration" ordinance that required groups as small as two persons to obtain permits before engaging in various free speech activity.
"What started as a lawsuit to get fair treatment for the Survivors has evolved into a broader challenge to the city’s unconstitutional permit scheme," Short said.
The suit arose from an incident which saw officers tell the group the sidewalk was private property and not a public sidewalk and insisted the pro-life advocates go to a sidewalk across the street to hold their signs and distribute literature.
When the pro-life activists refused to move, police arrested all nine including those who were only filming the police interaction. Police officials also confiscated the groups camera equipment, destroying some of the video coverage of the event, and towed their van, resulting in damage to the vehicle.
Related web sites:
Life Legal Defense Foundation – https://lldf.org
Sign Up for Free Pro-Life News From LifeNews.com
Daily Pro-Life News Report Twice-Weekly Pro-Life
News Report Receive a free daily email report from LifeNews.com with the latest pro-life news stories on abortion, euthanasia and stem cell research. Sign up here. Receive a free twice-weekly email report with the latest pro-life news headlines on abortion, euthanasia and stem cell research. Sign up here.