John Chesna and Joe (right) hold sign over the Kennedy Expy., July 8
[Photo by Ann Scheidler]
In the wee hours of Wednesday, July 6, Face the Truth Tour team captain Eric Scheidler rushed his wife April off to the hospital for an emergency C-section and the birth of their seventh child, Mary Macrina. The nine-day Tour began later that day in the hands of Eric’s capable assistants, John Jansen, Peter Shaughnessy and Ann Scheidler.
The first site was on the overpasses of the Kennedy Expressway in downtown Chicago. Three dozen participants held eight-foot tall “Choice” signs on the Randolph, Washington, and Monroe Street bridges, where hundreds of motorists would see the gory results of a third trimester abortion.
Police, Protesters on First Day of Tour
A Chicago Tribune photographer spent nearly an hour snapping shots of the signs and the pro-lifers. In response to complaints from drivers, a Chicago Police officer stopped to give some friendly advice on our leafleting, but did not object to our signs. However, the Illinois Department of Transportation showed up on the Washington Street bridge and told the participants they were a traffic hazard. An Illinois State trooper threatened arrest if we continued with the display, and for about fifteen minutes the pro-lifers held the signs down on their sides and negotiated with the IDOT agents. One of the State troopers, a father of five, was supportive and diffused the situation. He mediated on behalf of the League and the signs went back up.
A lone member of NARAL arrived on a bicycle and waited around for a while. None of her cohorts showed up. She finally sat down on the sidewalk and, using a stone, scraped “It’s pro-choice or no choice” into the cement.
Pro-Life Mother and Daughter Spat Upon
At the second site of the first day, Daley Plaza, reaction to the signs was mild until a man came along Washington St. spitting in participants’ faces, including the League’s Urszula Mihai and stalwart Jean Crocco and her daughter, Xina. Jean alerted a nearby police officer who handcuffed the man and took him away. He was later given one year’s supervision in Cook County Court.
A short time later, the individual who had attacked League employee Carmeline DeVito at the April 2004 Truth Day at UIC picked up a stack of Malachi information cards, threw them in the gutter and poured water on them. Joe Scheidler reported the incident to a police officer who briefly detained the man. He was clearly fearful of being arrested and began making excuses that he had to leave and get to work. After checking his ID the police allowed him to leave, but he was later subpoenaed to appear in the case Carmeline had filed against him, now that his whereabouts had been ascertained.
A group of eight pro-aborts huddled together with small signs at the corner of Clark and Washington, but did not interfere with us. Several passers-by join the tour on the spot at Daley Plaza, spending their lunch hour holding signs.
At the final site of the first day near Union Station, we were joined by fifteen members of the Crusaders for Life (see related story). Also, a couple who had recognized Joe Scheidler at lunch at the Berghoff that afternoon joined the Truth Tour before boarding an Amtrak train at Union Station.
As the participants were taking their places along Madison Street, a homeless woman approached in tears and asked for help. Several pro-lifers offered her money and helped her find a bus to get to a shelter. She was also given Truth Tour T-shirts for herself and her two young children.
Enraged Passers-By Attack Pro-Lifers
Back at the Kennedy overpasses the morning of July 7, an angry woman pulled up in her car, jumped out and tried to push the large “Choice” sign held by Nathan and George Calvino over the railing and onto the expressway below. Chuck Bacon, who was holding a sign nearby, came to their assistance. Carmeline saw the disturbance and ran over to help, posing as a disinterested passer-by and telling the woman that she had called the police, but the woman fled before a squad car could get there.
Matthew Funovits (right) counters the pro-aborts, July 7
[Photo by EJS]
At the Art Institute of Chicago, the lunch hour stop, about a dozen individuals carrying pro-abortion and pro-gay signs showed up to counter-protest, but police kept the peace. We dispatched volunteers to infiltrate the ranks of pro-aborts displaying keep abortion legal signs with our look-alike keep murder legal sign signs.
Mayor Daley Faces the Truth
On July 8, with the full Face the Truth display in place along three bridges over the Kennedy Expressway, Mayor Richard M. Daley drove by. He was stunned by what he saw. A CTA bus driver just starting his route for the day pulled up and got out of his bus. He looked over our Face the Truth leaflet and commented that it is necessary to teach morals, and proudly showed pictures of his four children. He told us to “keep up the good work.”
Nearly fifty participants lined Lake Shore Drive for the noon Tour site near Buckingham Fountain, where reaction from motorists was mostly positive. But at our final site of the day, an encore on the Kennedy overpasses, ten pro-aborts arrived. They hastily made signs and held them over the railing.
Shortly thereafter, a crazed motorist pulled up along the sidewalk on the bridge, leapt out of his car, tried to wrench a large “Choice” sign from volunteer Mike Walsh and knocked it to the ground. Ann Scheidler already had a video camera running because of the counter-demonstrators, so she caught the man on tape. He then began circling, swearing and threatening, and finally attempted to grab the camera, saying he would throw it onto the expressway. He finally got back in his car, but only drove to the next corner, parked and walked around the neighborhood. His license plate number was reported to the police and Mike Walsh went to the police station to file a complaint.
Ann later gave the videotape to a Chicago police detective in prepration for an August court hearing at which the man was given six months supervision. Afterwards he approached Mike Walsh and sincerely apologized.
Tour Hits the Suburbs
Tour coordinators in yellow shirts (right) discuss strategy for the Libertyville site as the police (left) brew trouble, July 9
[Photo by Dan Gura]
On Saturday, July 9 the Tour hit the suburbs, beginning in Libertyville, where police arrived before the Tour began to announce that they had received complaints. Dan Gura suggested the complaints were unfounded since so far there were no signs on display. The Libertyville police were terribly uncooperative. They informed Ann Scheidler that Libertyville had an ordinance against protesting on public streets. She told the officer that such an ordinance would be unconstitutional, but he said that did not matter and that he would arrest her if the demonstration continued.
While the police waited to hear from the State’s Attorney, the demonstration continued and the officers warned each sign holder individually not to block the sidewalk. In contrast to the police, Libertyville residents were receptive to the pro-life message. Five pro-aborts showed up to counter-demonstrate and parked in a private strip mall parking lot where police had told pro-lifers they could not park.
Pro-Lifers Attacked Again
Next we visited Lake Zurich, where thousands of motorists saw the display despite considerable road construction, and over sixty volunteers joined the Tour. One driver of a small truck drove by hurling hard plastic electrical connectors at the pro-lifers, hitting Dan Gura, Ann Scheidler, Katherine Reese, and George Calvino. A report was made to the Lake Zurich police who said they would follow up, but predicted the driver would deny it.
On this first day of the Tour in the suburbs, Sandy Gura, Phyllis Finnegan and Judith Stephens provided lunch at the Gura home for all the Truth Tour participants. In fact, our group was blessed with a generous lunch every day after leaving downtown Chicago.
The last site of that Saturday was in Barrington, where a dozen pro-aborts showed up and began shouting about George Bush over a bullhorn. Police quickly silenced the bullhorn, but they continued to shout slogans, mostly about the Iraq War.
As participants were leaving the site, volunteer Debbie Lipinski was assaulted by a mother and daughter from the pro-abort group. She was very frightened by the experience, so Joe Scheidler and Dan Gura accompanied her to a squad car to make a police report. The police then escorted her to her car so she could safely leave Barrington.
Eric Returns for Tour Week Two
We left much of the drama of our first Tour week behind when the second week began Tuesday, July 12 in Rockford, IL. Tour organizer Eric Scheidler returned for the second week and took over the job of shuttling the Warning Sign holders to their positions at each site. Ann and Joe Scheidler‘s van broke down on the way to Rockford, but Eric was not far behind and was able to drive them and volunteer Alan Nelles to the first site, which had been delayed because of rain.
The Chicagoland stalwarts were joined by local Rockford activists and Operation Rescue‘s Troy Newman for three sites around the city and a refreshing lunch at Holy Family Church. Except for the irate owner of a vacant building where we had parked, who yelled in the ear of an elderly volunteer, our day in Rockford was peaceful.
Tour Front Page News in Aurora
July 13 we lined Route 34 in Oswego, a suburb far west of Chicago. As the demonstration was in progress, an older woman approached John Jansen and identified herself as a former neo-natal nurse. She credited her nursing experience for making her pro-life and blessed us for being there.
The day’s second site was Eric Scheidler‘s hometown, Aurora. Police in Aurora were exceptionally cooperative. Angela Fornelli, a reporter with the Aurora Beacon, interviewed several people at the site, including organizers and participants, while a Beacon photographer snapped pictures of the demonstration. A fairly objective story on the Tour ran on the front page of the paper the next day.
A woman approached John Jansen and revealed to him that she had gotten pregnant when she was twenty-one. Her boyfriend had told her to get an abortion “or else”; she chose “or else” and he left her. She said her daughter is now six years old and is the joy of her life. “She was planned,” said the woman, “just not by me.”
Lunch was served at the home of Richard and Mary Ellen O’Rourke at their Naperville home, before the group set up in Naperville. The base of operations was adjacent to a Kohl’s department store where the manager came out to ask us to leave, claiming that the store owned all the property along the roadway. He was finally placated when we moved our remaining signs a little farther from the Kohl’s parking lot.
Differing Police Responses in West Suburbs
On July 14, as the Tour lined Butterfield Road near Route 53 in Glen Ellyn, DuPage County police officers, responding to complaints, came and claimed that state law prohibits us from being within twenty feet of the roadway. While the demonstration continued, Eric occupied them with questions on where the twenty feet begins and ends. Soon they returned to their squad cars and no longer interfered with the Tour.
Fr. Francis McClosky of Albany, New York, on his way to a Truth Tour in Colorado, joined the Chicago Tour for the day. A woman who announced that she had a master’s degree in early childhood education, got out of her car and declared “You people are sick,” and criticized us for bringing children on our Tours.
After our next site at the busy intersection of St. Charles Road and Route 83 in Elmhurst, Jerry and Barbara Urbik hosted our sixty volunteers for lunch at their nearbyt home.
The police were great at our final site of the day along North Avenue at Glen Ellyn Road in Glendale Heights. They advised us to park in a particular parking lot and helped escort sign holders as they crossed the highway. Several motorists drove up to our site base to complain about seeing the signs, but one man stopped to get information on the rest of the Tour so that he and his three teenagers could join us later in the week. Another motorist bought a case of water for us on this hot day. A biker who had seen the display the previous week along the Kennedy Expressway thanked us for having the courage to show the truth.
Generous Supporters Feed the Tour Group
On July 15, as a light drizzle fell, the Tour came to Oak Lawn, a south suburb of Chicago. Two teen girls who had participated in pro-life protests with their parents as children bought donuts and water and distributed them along the demonstration line. An off-duty policewoman purchased dozens of White Castle hamburgers for the demonstrators.
The next site was Chicago’s South Side Beverly neighborhood, where police would not allow leafleting in the streets—unusual for Chicago. But at the final site of the day in Chicago?s Bogan neighborhood, so much literature was passed out that we had to call Penny Kleiner at the League office to come and replenish our supply. Margaret Shine, mother-in-law of former Generations for Life co-director, Mary Shine, provided lunch in her backyard between the last two sites.
Biggest Turnout for Final Tour Day
Our final Tour day, Saturday, July 16, yielded the best turnout yet. Shortly after set-up was complete at the first site in north suburban Skokie, a police sergeant from neighboring Niles—where we were scheduled to be two hours later—drove up and graciously advised us where we would be able to park when we arrived at our next site.
Joe Scheidler closes the 2005 Tour with words on the grace the group received to do this work, July 16
[Photo by EJS]
This instruction proved especially helpful, as the intersection of Touhy and Milwaukee Avenues drew a crowd of 90 pro-lifers—the largest of the 2005 Tour!—along with a group of pro-aborts, including one who banged wildly on a drum. Following the Niles site, we were treated to a delicious Filipino lunch provided by Carol Alcazar at the home of Brian and Mary Higgins in nearby Evanston.
The last site of the Tour was the intersection of Touhy Avenue and McCormick Boulevard in Lincolnwood. Near the end of the site, a waiter from the Olive Garden, which happened to have several Baby Malachi signs in front of it, came out looking upset. Eric Scheidler crossed the road to talk to him and hear out his complaint that it was “sadistic” to hold graphic signs outside a restaurant. The man was so receptive to Eric’s defense of the Truth Tour concept that Eric decided to give him one of the new Project Rachel flyers [PDF] for post-abortion healing that debuted on the Tour. He urged the young man to give it to anyone he knew who had been involved with abortion. The man took the flyer and confessed that his girlfriend had had an abortion, and he and Eric parted warmly.
The Tour concluded with a joyous party at the Scheidlers’ Chicago home, where the pro-life faithful celebrated our sixth successful year of bringing the truth about abortion into the public square in northern Illinois.