[Photo by Dan Gura]
For the first time in the seven years the Pro-Life Action League has conducted Face the Truth Tours, we were forced to remove our display from the public square by local police. On Saturday, July 8, the first day of the League’s 2006 Tour, police shut down the Tour in the Village of Mundelein, IL, threatening massive arrests if we did not disband.
The Mundelein Police appeared shortly after we began our planned 90-minute stint at Route 60 and Route 45, demanding that we remove our signs and leave the village immediately, insisting a permit was required for any “public assembly.” I attempted to convince the police to respect our First Amendment right to peacefully protest abortion, and asked for a copy of the ordinance of we were allegedly violating. They could not show me the ordinance, nor even immediately cite it, nor would they explain why the ordinance was not being enforced against a group of highschool cheerleaders who had assembled to conduct a fundraising carwash at the same corner.
Massive Arrests Threatened
Meanwhile, police from Vernon Hills, Libertyville and several other neighboring communities had begun to appear on the scene to assist the Mundelein police in arresting our entire group of 75 pro-life activists. Rather than jeopardize the entire summer Truth Tour—a real danger if the police impounded our signs—I made the decision to end the demonstration early when it became clear that police were about begin making arrests. However, I was able to keep our display in place for about half the allotted time while talking to police.
We made our way to activist Dan Gura’s house for an earlier lunch than we had planned, graciously served by Dan’s wife Sandy with help from Joe and Carol Walsh. The talk over lunch was dominated by astonishment at the actions of the Mundelein police and vows to return.
I had been in contact with League attorney Thomas Brejcha during the crisis, and after the Tour, Brejcha began legal proceedings to secure our right to protest in Mundelein (see story, below). The hostility of the Mundelein police stood in stark contrast to the cooperation and respect with which we were treated by police in Libertyville that morning. Police in Barrington, the afternoon site, did not stop to talk to us.
More Trouble with Police in Cook County
Our Monday, July 10 Tour date in Rockford went off without a hitch, with three great sites in Rockford, IL, where we were joined by many local activists, and were treated to lunch at Golden Corral thanks to the generosity of Holy Family Church. At our final site along Perryville Road, a young woman stopped and with tears in her eyes told us that thanks to seeing a public abortion display like ours, she had decided not to have an abortion several years before. She said her daughter Arriana was the light of her life.
Back in Chicago on July 11, we began the day by being rained out at 103rd Street and Pulaski Avenue. The skies were still cloudy but the rain had stopped before our next stop at 87th Street and Pulaski Road, adjacent to the Dan Ryan Forest Preserve, so we took our chances and set up the Truth display. Soon a Cook County Forest Preserve Police officer came on the scene and with unusual belligerence demanded that I produce a permit. When I said I did not have one, he demanded we leave the scene immediately.
Over the next 45 minutes, Ann Scheidler and I wrangled with the officer, assisted by former police officer Terry Hodges, who was with us that day, and attorney Tom Brejcha on the phone. Initially, the officer objected that the signs were on Cook County property, though they were actually on City of Chicago property. Then he said the problem was that we parked in a Forest Preserve lot, though there were no parking restrictions posted. He even claimed that our signs constituted “advertising,” and threatened several times to arrest me.
However, it appeared that his superiors, with whom he spoke on the phone several times, did not support his foggy view of the First Amendment. Eventually a Forest Preserve Police sergeant arrived at the scene and allowed us to continue our Tour stint there without further trouble. Towards the end of our time it began to rain, but we were not about to quit early under the circumstances.
Truth Tour a “Sign from God”
Our final site of the day was in Chicago’s Bogan neighborhood. The skies again threatened rain, and the group was doused with a few light showers several times during the stop. But we counted it worthwhile to be “soaked for life” when we heard about an encounter related by volunteer Pat Reidy.
Pat told us about a fifteen-year-old young man who approached him to say that he had just found out the previous day that his girlfriend was pregnant. They were considering abortion, but he had prayed for a sign from God. He told Pat our Truth Tour was that sign, and that abortion was now out of the question.
Demoralized Pro-Aborts Downtown
Tour covers three bridges over the Kennedy Expressway, July 12 [Photo by EJS]
July 12-13 we spent two days in downtown Chicago, starting each day with our traditional Kennedy Expressway sites, reaching tens of thousands of drivers with our huge signs on the bridges over the highway. On July 11, Chicago police said we could not hold our signs on the bridges, but ended by requiring us only to move one set of signs to a different bridge. On July 12, a Chicago police lieutenant showed us a copy of the city ordinance prohibiting such activity on city bridges, but he did not produce the document until minutes before the end of the stop, apparently not wanting to disrupt our Tour this year. We may not be able to return to the Kennedy overpasses next year.
Our other downtown Chicago sites were marked by the appearance of small groups of counter protestors, including a woman at Daley Plaza carrying a sign reading PLAP = American Taliban = Terrorists Opposed to Women’s Rights. She later changed “PLAP” to “PLAL.” At the Art Institute, I was proud to see my name appear on a pro-abort sign for the first time: Eric Scheidler Supports Terrorism Against Doctors. Later, at Lake Shore Drive, I tried to ask the man holding this sign where he got the idea I support terrorism against doctors, but he refused to talk to me.
His reaction was typical of the demoralization among abortion supporters noted by Chicago Sun-Times columnist Neil Steinberg in a story he wrote on the Truth Tour after encountering our abortion signs twice during the downtown phase of the Tour and stopping to talk to Joe Scheidler at our Madison Street and Wacker Drive site. Though adamantly pro-abortion, Steinberg admitted that our signs are effective and that our opponents seem dejected, refusing even to give their names to a sympathetic reporter like him.
Joliet Activist Recruits Fabulous Turnout
Our greatest turnout of the 2006 summer Tour was in Joliet on July 14, where activist Ted Castro single-handedly recruited scores of volunteers for the morning stop at West Jefferson Street and North Larkin Avenue. We look forward to working with Ted on next year’s Tour, and hope we can find a few more like him in the region.
Eric Scheidler (from left), Nate Scheidler and John Jansen in front of an ironic sculpture at the McCormick Blvd Tour site in Lincolnwood, July 15 [Photo by Sam Scheidler]
Our next stop was a busy section of Lincoln Highway in Mokena, selected by Truth Tour summer staffer Karl Schudt. After a relaxing lunch at the beautiful neo-Victorian home of activist and pro-life speaker Jill Stanek, we concluded the day with a stop at 159th Street and LaGrange Road in Orland Park, where local police were helpful when the owner of Fat Sam’s Again bar tried to force us to move, erroneously claiming his property extended all the way to the curb.
The Tour concluded Saturday, July 15 with three sweltering sites in the near north suburbs of Chicago. The final sites at Touhy and Milwaukee Avenues in Niles, Davis Street and Ridge Avenue in Evanston and McCormick Boulevard and Touhy in Lincolnwood were well-attended despite the intense heat wave that hit that day. Following the last site, volunteers and Tour coordinators gathered at the Scheidlers’ Chicago home for a barbecue, some cold drinks, and the sharing of stories from a great summer Tour.
Links and Related Pages
- League Returns to Mundelein—Article in this issue of Action News
- League Holds “Rain Date” and Other Fall Truth Days—Article in this issue of Action News
- Hoosiers Face the Truth—Article in this issue of Action News
- Face the Truth main page