On the heals of the Pro-Life Action League’s July 8 ouster from Mundelein, Illinois by local police under threat of mass arrests, the League’s Truth Tour has encountered more unusual trouble from the police. The Monday, July 10 Tour date in Rockford went off without a hitch, but on July 11, the first of three days in the City of Chicago, police again attempted to shut down the Tour.
The Face the Truth Tour group had just set up along the northeast corner of 87th Street and Pulaski Avenue, adjacent to the Dan Ryan Forest Preserve, when a Cook County Forest Preserve Police officer came on the scene and with unusual beligerance demanded that Tour captain Eric Scheidler produce a permit for the group’s abortion protest. When Scheidler said that he did not have a permit, the officer demanded the Tour group leave the scene immediately.
Scheidler then asked if he could have one minute to call his lawyer, and the officer barked, “No!” and told Scheidler he would put him under arrest and then they could take it before a judge. So Scheidler asked Tour lieutenant Corinna Gura to do so while he continued to talk to the police officer, trying to find out precisely why he was insisting the pro-lifers stop holding their abortion signs.
Over the course of the next 45 minutes, Eric and Ann Scheidler, assisted by former police officer Terry Hodges, who was with the group that day, and attorney Tom Brejcha, whom Ann had reached by phone, wrangled with the officer. The officer continually changed his statement of what was wrong with the pro-life presence there.
Initially, the police officer objected to the signs on Cook County property (though they were actually on City of Chicago property). Then he said the problem was the group’s having parked in a Forest Preserve lot (though there were no parking restrictions posted). Most strangely, he claimed the signs constituted advertising (though he would not say of what).
The officer appeared to consider the Dan Ryan Forest Preserve his own personal fiefdom, as he spoke of the protestors being on “our property,” a phrase particularly offensive to the many Cook County taxpayers in the pro-life group. However, the superior officers with whom he spoke on the phone several times did not appear to share his foggy view of public property and freedom of speech, to judge by what Ann and Eric Scheidler could hear of his side of the conversation.
At one point the officer, ignoring the Truth Tour leaders entirely, began telling Truth Tour volunteers to take their signs back to their cars while this “police matter” was considered. Eric Scheidler urged the volunteers to leave their signs in place.
At last a superior officer