Masked anarchists hold pro-abortion banner in front of UIC’s Circle Center April 7 [Public domain photo]
Inspired by groups in Washington State, Virginia and elsewhere who have brought Face the Truth Tours to college campuses, the Pro-Life Action League launched a monthly Campus Truth Tour this spring, starting with visits to Northwestern and Loyola Universities on March 10. By chance the date coincided with “Abortion Providers Appreciation Day,” first declared in 1996 by the radical leftist group Refuse and Resist. The group’s Chicago chapter celebrated their macabre holiday by organizing a counter-protest at both campuses.
We did not learn of their plans until the evening before, when a pro-life Northwestern student sent us an e-mailed warning. She had seen flyers and e-mails calling on campus feminists, anarchists, atheists and others to join the counter-protest.
When I arrived at the Evanston campus with our signs a group of about seventy pro-aborts had already assembled, and immediately began to chant, “Racist! Sexist! Anti-gay! Born-again bigots, go away!”
The local leader of Refuse and Resist quickly identified me as the organizer of the pro-life side and began to harangue me with insults, blasphemies and lies about Joe Scheidler, my father. He and another pro-abort leader took turns following me around badgering me as I distributed signs and set up our display. Their harassment continued for the full ninety minutes of the protest. Fortunately I had spiritually prepared for the day with early morning Mass and confession.
Though outnumbered three to one, our group of stalwart volunteers faced the taunting, cursing crowd of pro-aborts peacefully and prayerfully, and managed to show the ugly truth about abortion to passing cars and pedestrians despite the counter-protesters’ attempts to block them with scarcely legible home-made signs. We found that the pro-aborts preferred to stay together in clusters, so by spreading out we were able to keep many of our signs visible.
Pro-Life Kids Not Spared
The counter-protesters did not shrink from taunting my three oldest children, Nate, Sam and Liza, who took the day off from homeschooling to join the protest. They told the kids they had a right to be in school, and that they should believe what they want to believe. Recounting the scene, Sam remarked, “I want to believe in the truth.”
Radicals disrupt group picture at the Northwestern University arches March 10 [Photo by EJS]
The protest grew more heated near the end of our allotted time when we moved down to the landmark Northwestern arches at Sheridan Road and Chicago Avenue for a group picture. The counter-protesters followed us and tried to disrupt my photography. They hemmed me in with their signs and a large cloth banner that tore apart as I tried to back away. This threw one of them into such a frenzy that he was arrested for disorderly conduct.
Pro-Life Students Join Campus Tour
Several Northwestern students joined our ranks, holding abortion signs and sharing the pro-life message with passing fellow students. After the demonstration, pro-lifer Paula Emmerth stayed behind for an hour to talk to the pro-abortion students, who were much more respectful and open to dialog once the Refuse and Resist group left campus.
At our lunchtime stop at Loyola University in Chicago we were joined by several members of Pro-Life Loyola University Students (PLUS), and met by a small contingent of counter-protesters. Public support at Loyola was generally greater than at Northwestern, but the Dean of Students came on the scene and seemed disappointed that she couldn’t ban us from the public sidewalk.
April Campus Truth Day Terror
The pro-abortion group at Loyola was so small that we didn’t know whether to believe their boast that they would confront us throughout our Campus Tour. Shortly before our April 7 Campus Truth Day we learned that a counter-protest was planned for our visits to the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT) and the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC), but we didn’t know how many pro-aborts to expect. Still, I took care to get to Mass and confession early that morning.
The day began relatively peacefully at IIT. I arrived early with my daughter Liza for breakfast at the McCormick Tribune Campus Center. The Center was swarming with campus security and Chicago police, and only one entrance was open at the back of the building. They had evidently learned of the protest and counter-protest and were prepared for the worst.
After a quick muffin, I retrieved our van of signs and tried to unload near our meeting place at 33rd and State Streets. I was immediately issued a parking ticket, before I had even managed to finish parking, by an over-zealous Chicago police officer. While he wrote out the ticket, quick-thinking activists Alan Nellis and Mike Busse unloaded the signs.
Pro-abortion harrassment at IIT was concentrated on my father and me, with the same two pro-abort leaders at my elbow, badgering me as before. Several pro-lifers were able to engage in fruitful conversation about the life issues with a group of IIT students who came out to hold signs mocking the very idea of public protest.
Pro-Aborts Turn Violent at UIC
Eric Scheidler shortly after being splashed with black vegetable dye at UIC April 7 [Public domain photo]
At UIC, the counter-protest turned ugly. The counter-demonstrators, many of them dressed in black masks holding signs with slogans like “I’m Pro-Choice and I RIOT!” grew increasingly hateful and violent, kicking signs, blocking the sidewalk, screaming, swearing and issuing threats. League staffer Carmeline DeVito and volunteer Alberta Rael were battered by one pro-abort man, who pushed them in the chest. After repeated requests the police finally took a report, and a case is now being pursued against the man by a Chicago district attorney.
The most shocking violence that day was an attack on my father and me. My father had walked away from the protest area hoping to shake a couple of pro-aborts at his heels, concerned they would block his car if he tried to drive off for an appointment. I followed and caught up with him beyond the view of police, bringing my own pro-abort shadow along.
Realizing the three pro-aborts were not going to leave us, we turned back and began to pray the Rosary. Suddenly we were splashed from behind with a black liquid (we later learned it was vegetable dye). My father turned to look, and a second splash struck him in the face. The masked woman who splashed us took off running and could not be caught. My father left the demonstration to seek medical attention for his left eye, which took a direct hit. The eye was sore for weeks after the incident, but has finally healed fully, thanks to great medical care and many prayers from supporters.
The UIC and Chicago Police were out in force, but for the most part gave the pro-abort radicals free rein. One of them even laughed when he saw Joe Scheidler’s blackened face shortly after the dye incident, though a more sympathetic officer did fill out a police report on the incident.
Pro-Aborts Show True Colors
With signs and chants the pro-aborts called us “racists,” “sexists” and “bigots,” yet our group represented a greater cross-section of American society. While the majority of the pro-aborts were men, our group was more than half women. They said we were “spreading hate,” but it was they who treated us with hatred.
They called us “anti-woman,” but expressed no concern for the suffering that women undergo from abortion. They treated the women in our group with contempt, screaming and yelling in their faces, even pushing and threatening them. Not even the children in our group were spared their attacks; a ten-year-old homeschooled girl was reduced to tears by their taunts and mistreatment of her mother.
League Shifts Campus Strategy
League staff held a strategy meeting after our experience at UIC to consider how to deal with the situation. Not only were our enemies disrupting the Campus Tour, driving away the normal students we hoped to reach, but they had shown their willingness to resort to violence. As Joe Scheidler commented, “Our mission isn’t to have a pitched battle with these radicals, it’s to reach the general public with the truth about abortion.”
Radical group awaits pro-lifers at Columbia College in downtown Chicago May 5 [Photo by Julie Wheeland]
We decided to deal with the problem in two ways. First, we would shift the sites of our next Campus Truth Day, May 5, to two different colleges. We would leave the original itinerary on our website, where the pro-aborts were getting their information. and inform volunteers of the new sites by phone and mail. Second, we would transform the final Campus Truth Day, June 2, into a leafleting campaign at campuses throughout downtown Chicago.
Radicals Left in the Dark
Our ruse de guerre proved effective. In the morning of May 5, forty pro-lifers gathered at Triton College in River Grove, minus Joe and Ann Scheidler who were speaking in Seattle. This was an unprecedented number for a one-day Tour. Meanwhile a throng of frustrated pro-aborts stood scratching their heads downtown at Columbia College, thirteen miles away, as reported by several pro-life spies dispatched to take pictures and report on the situation there.
We had a different kind trouble back at Triton. Right as we were beginning to set up, my mother called my cellphone to wish us luck and let me know that she and my father were on their way into Mass, which they were offering for the Tour. When I hung up, campus police showed up and demanded that we leave the public sidewalk along Fifth Avenue. They insisted we needed a permit from River Grove, and one officer told us we’d all be arrested if we didn’t move off in five minutes.
To buy time I asked the officers for clarification, moved some of the protesters to portions of Fifth Ave. not adjacent to Triton and called the League’s attorney, Tom Brejcha. Meanwhile, college Vice-President Sean Sullivan arrived and defused the situation, affirming our right to protest on the public sidewalk. I credit this good result to the Mass my parents were offering for us right at that time.
Pro-Aborts Try Cellphone Ploy
Peaceful May 5 Morning at Triton [Photo by EJS]
During the protest I received two other cellphone calls. The first was from a young woman claiming to represent a group of Christian Columbia College students who had made pro-life signs expecting to join our planned protest there. I told her I wanted to believe that she was a sister in Christ, but that I couldn’t disclose our plans without being certain. My gut told me she was an imposter.
The next cellphone call confirmed that suspicion. It was from a pro-lifer who isn’t on our mailing list. He too was at Columbia College and said no pro-life students were on the scene. In fact, it was the pro-aborts who had given him my cellphone number. He understood why I couldn’t say what we were up to. Later that month we met in person at a protest at abortionist Vinod Goyal’s house in Inverness.
From Triton we moved on to Wilbur Wright Junior College on the northwest side of Chicago, while the pro-aborts took their meaningless counter-protest to Roosevelt University. The two polite Chicago police officers who monitored the demonstration at Wright were glad to hear the counter-protesters were on the other side of town.
Stealthy Leaflet Hits Nine Campuses
We were back downtown on June 2 to leaflet nine area campuses with a clever flyer produced by Life Dynamics in Denton, TX. The cover of the flyer is filled with slogans like “Pro-Choice,” “Reproductive Freedom” and “The Right to Privacy,” while the inside declares, “Pretty Words. Grim Reality,” with a gruesome picture of a first trimester abortion and several chilling facts about what “choice” really means.
Dan Payne leaflettig, June 2 [Photo by EJS]
The flyer was so stealthy that some volunteers felt uncomfortable passing it out. In fact, some passers-by refused to take the flyers, declaring they were pro-life. Though it was tough to be mistaken by fellow pro-lifers, it was good to discover their position and know that more flyers would reach the intended “pro-choice” audience. Some five thousand flyers were distributed that day at Harold Washington College, Roosevelt University, UIC, the School of the Art Institute, Columbia College, and the downtown campuses of DePaul University, Loyola University, Northwestern University and National Louis University, as well as Daley Plaza.
Before the leafleting campaign, I bicycled down to the University of Chicago, our original morning site, but saw no sign of the pro-aborts. I found them in the afternoon when I bicycled up to our original midday site at DePaul’s Lincoln Park campus.
Face the Truth “Summer Blitz”
The Pro-Life Action League’s fifth annual summer Face the Truth Tour begins Wednesday, July 7 and runs through Satuday July 17. We will visit over two dozen sites, including the Art Institute of Chicago, shown below during the 2003 Tour. Join us as we take the fight against abortion to the streets of Chicago.
I rode right past their small group, unnoticed by my nemesis from the March and April Campus Truth Days, then stopped to take some pictures from a safe distance. It was disappointing to see that the pro-aborts were allowed on DePaul property in front of the student center at Belden and Sheffield Avenues. Would campus officials have tolerated pro-lifers there? Or like Loyola in March would they have restricted us to the public sidewalk? Maybe next year we’ll find out.
Face the Truth Will Continue
On a radical left-wing website, the pro-aborts have boasted about our “retreat” from the Campus Face the Truth Tour. With the publication of this article, they will finally learn that they were duped on May 5 and June 2. We can’t keep them from showing up during the widely publicized Summer Blitz Tour, July 7-17, but if they do we’re prepared with measures to ensure the safety of our volunteers and the continued effectiveness of Face the Truth.
We wouldn’t be meeting this kind of resistance if Face the Truth weren’t working. The increasingly desperate defenders of abortion want us to stop. We’re not about to.
Links and Related Stories
- Students Face the Truth in La Salle County, Illinois — A much more peaceful campus Truth Day in rural Illinois
- 2003 Face the Truth Tour a Success — Story from Fall 2003 Action News on summer 2003 Face the Truth Tour
- Face the Truth main page on this site
- A pro-abort’s pictures of the April 7 Truth Day on radical leftist website, including Joe Scheidler covered in black dye
- Another pro-abort’s pictures from April 7 on radical leftist site
- Yet another pro-abort’s pictures from April 7 on radical leftist site