On March 10th, several pro-abortion students surrounded three pro-life activists at the University of Oregon before attempting to destroy their signs displaying victims of abortion. According to the Daily Emerald, the president of Young Americans for Liberty at the University, Thomas Tullis and Vice President Brandon Clements recorded the incident.
Allison Rutledge was the first student to damage one of the pro-life signs. She said, “All I’d like to say about why I decided to actually take the sign from him is I realized it was his property, but it was a piece of paper. I considered the sign obscene and offensive and intending to anger and start a scene. There’s a limit to what people should be forced to look at. We didn’t like it and we actually made him put his sign away. We had no problem with his opinion, but it was his sign. You can’t just show whatever you want.”
One abortion supporter added, “This is our campus and we don’t want it — we don’t want you and your ugliness. This is so violent. This is obscene. This is not part of your First Amendment rights. This is unbelievable.”
However, in 1984 the Oregon Supreme Court decided that censorship of any material considered obscene is unconstitutional. The pro-life activist said, “This is my property. Just leave us alone. I don’t see where you’re showing how I’m actually violating the law. There would be no need to protect freedom of speech if everybody agreed.”
The police officer that arrived at the scene, John Loos, originally said the signs need to be taken down but later realized they didn’t violate school policy or the constitution. Initially, he said, “You are breaking the rules of this institution. You are not breaking any laws in my opinion. This is a privately owned institution, even though it’s a public school. If it’s considered to be demeaning or anything like that, it’s not allowed.”
He added, “You’re breaking an ASUO rule — I don’t know the rule off the top of my head. I’m not picking sides here. What I’m trying to do is work a compromise so that these two groups could be doing this all day without having a fight.”
Then responding sergeant, Frank Sorrentino, arrived and told Loos that the pro-life activists could stay. The Police Chief at the University of Oregon, Carolyn McDermed, said in a statement to The Emerald, “As free speech is a cornerstone of a public university, we expect our officers to understand the relevant laws and police, and do their professional best to protect the speech rights of everyone on campus, while ensuring safe access to our facilities and public rights of way. All UOPD officers will be reminded of the relevant laws and policies, and their role in protecting the safe practice of free speech on our campus.”