Free Speech Rights Under Threat in Aurora

Note: This entry is cross-posted at Families Against Planned Parenthood.

Police video surveillance

As Roger reported, Saturday's rally was a tremendous success. I would estimate that at least 1,000 pro-lifers participated in the event, sending the message: "It's not over. We're here for life."

The Aurora police did a great job of keeping the peace and defending our First Amendment rights—that is, until the near the end of the Rally, when Police Chief William Powell and Corporation Counsel Alayne Weingartz came on the scene.

At this point we were hearing a talk by Bryan Kemper of Stand True Ministries. We faced difficult logistics for the talks that closed the Rally, thanks to the hideous fence put up by Dominick's. People were lined up in the strip of grass between the fence and the street, but some decided to cross the street to see and hear better.

The police didn't seem to have a problem with that—and why should they have a problem with citizens standing on the sidewalk in a free republic? But then Chief Powell arrived and decided that was against the city's ordinance against protests in residential districts (which, by the way, is unconstitutional).

By standing on the sidewalk listening to some speakers across the street, these pro-life folks were somehow "protesting" those residences on the east side of Oakhurst, according to Powell and Weingartz, who arrived shortly after him.

It was quite confusing. At one point the police blocked off that strip of Oakhurst, and people naturally assumed that was to facilitate our peaceable assembly and moved onto the pavement, only to be told to get off the street.

Weingartz not only objected to where people were standing, but claimed we needed a permit for out PA system, though we had been assured that amplification was okay by the City's outside counsel during negotiations Friday.

As Jason Craddock, one of our attorneys, tried to reason with Weingartz and the Chief, and Kemper's talk continued, a paddy wagon arrived! It was laughable, really, one little paddy wagon for a crowd numbering, at that point, some 800.

Today, Alderman Rick Lawrence, who was present for the whole rally, wrote a memo to Alderman Scheketa Hart-Burns, who chairs the Government Operations Committee, asking the committee to look into the residential protest ordinance so that the issue can be clarified before the city is hit with a lawsuit.

It's probably too late for that, though. The City of Aurora has been violating our First Amendment Rights in one way or another every since August 9, when the Vigil began and we were told we had to "keep moving."

Over the past 82 days they've capriciously suppressed our signs, ordered us to dig up our memorial crosses, allowed Planned Parenthood to erect a dangerous landscaping fence along both sides of the sidewalk, construed a prayer walk as a "residential picket" and overreacted to a string of groundless complaints from Planned Parenthood by sending intimidating numbers of police to the scene.

This looks to me like a deliberate effort to bully us out of the public square. It won't work, of course.

On a side, note, I wonder if city officials got together to arrange for the use of the "splayed finger hand gesture" that was employed several times. . .

Special gesture: police . . . here by a police officer…

Special gesture: Powell. . . and here by Chief Powell…

Special gesture: Weingartz. . . and here by Alayne Weingartz.

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