North Carolina pro-life advocates want to know why the local government still is pursuing charges against them for peacefully protesting outside a Charlotte abortion facility earlier this spring.
Though other, larger protests have occurred since then with few arrests, the pro-lifers said only they were targeted for allegedly violating coronavirus restrictions, WFAE News Charlotte reports.
“Oh, absolutely I think they were picked on because of their beliefs,” said attorney Kevin Theriot with Alliance Defending Freedom.
Theriot is representing eight pro-life advocates who were arrested in early April outside A Preferred Women’s Health Center for allegedly violating coronavirus restrictions. One of them was David Benham, whose charity Cities for Life has helped more than 5,000 mothers choose life for their unborn babies.
The pro-life advocates said they were unfairly targeted for arrest. They want Mecklenburg County to drop the charges, which include penalties of up to six months in jail and a $500 fine, according to the report.
Other North Carolina protesters who gathered for different issues during the coronavirus restrictions were not arrested.
According to the report:
Ten days after the abortion clinic arrests, on April 14, the conservative group ReOpen NC held its first protest in Raleigh. One person was arrested, and the Raleigh Police Department tweeted that “protesting is a non-essential activity.”
Under threat of litigation, Gov. Roy Cooper allowed the protests to move forward.
Then came George Floyd, in which thousands have marched in Charlotte and across the state. Cooper joined one march in Raleigh. …
There have been arrests during the George Floyd protests, but for things like having a concealed weapon – not for violating the stay-at-home order.
Theriot said he supports free speech for everyone, no matter what the issue.
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“Whenever the First Amendment is at issue, we’re always on the side of those who are engaging in free speech,” he said. “And whether that’s protesting the COVID-19 restrictions or protesting abortion or providing sidewalk counseling or expressing the views of the George Floyd tragedy, all of that should be protected speech.”
Though the eight pro-life advocates still are facing charges, there is hope that they will not be convicted.
University of California law professor Eugene Volokh told the news outlet that the situation appears to be unconstitutional.
“Once the government starts saying, ‘well these protests are really, really important, and we think the message there is especially worthy,’” he said. “That makes it pretty likely unconstitutional.”
In the past several months, dozens of pro-life advocates have been arrested or cited while peacefully praying and reaching out to moms in need outside abortion facilities across the U.S. Most were accused of violating coronavirus health restrictions.
In the most recent case, police in New York City arrested two women who were peacefully counseling women outside a Planned Parenthood abortion facility. Their arrests occurred in the midst of violent riots and looting during protests against police brutality, racism and the death of George Floyd.
Pro-life sidewalk counselors also were arrested or fined in San Francisco, California; Greensboro, North Carolina; Detroit, Michigan, Columbus, Ohio and Baton Rouge, Louisiana while trying to save unborn babies from abortions. Fortunately, some saw their charges dropped after filing lawsuits.