The Pro-Life Action League’s 2007 Summer Face the Truth Tour was a great success. Throughout the Chicago area, eyes were opened to the reality of abortion, and in at least one case the life of an unborn baby was saved.
This year’s Tour saw some new faces, with many volunteers joining us for the first time, and three new members of the core team: Jim Jansen, father of League staffer John Jansen; Matt Yonke, a friend of the League’s Eric Scheidler; and Eric’s son Nate, who has helped out on Tours in the past.
A full report on the Truth Tour will be published in the League’s Summer 2007 Action News newspaper, due out in August. Meanwhile, we report on some of the Tour’s highlights:
Unprecedented Difficulties with Police
Never before have so many police departments sought to shut down our Tour sites. Last year we were kicked out of Mundelein, Illinois under threat of massive arrests. This year, several police departments made similar threats.
Tour leaders confer during the July 12 Tour site in Northbrook [Photo by EJS]
In Joliet and Shorewood on July 7, the first day of the Tour, our initial contact with police was an order to pack up our signs and go. In both cases we were able to convince the police that we had every right to stay, under condition that we not impede traffic—which we never do anyway.
Simply getting on the phone to our attorney, Tom Brejcha of the Thomas More Society Pro-Life Law Center seemed to be instrumental in successfully concluding these “negotiations.” Apparently the prospect of a free speech lawsuit is more troubling than fielding complaints about a 90-minute pro-life demonstration.
Though police in Joliet and Shorewood were initially hostile to the Tour, they conducted themselves professionally and we departed on good terms. This was in stark contrast to our experience in Bridgeview and Woodridge.
Erratic Behavior by Bridgeview Police
Two police officers came on the scene shortly after the Tour site began at 87th Street and Harlem Avenue in Bridgeview on July 11. They demanded that we stay off one corner, where a Shell gas station manager complained about the disruption of her business. In fact, the police had already ordered the one volunteer at that corner to move.
Erin and Ambrose Yonke (left) and Clare Scheidler (right) on Touhy Ave. in Niles, July 14 [Photo by EJS]
League Tour coordinator Eric Scheidler attempted to explain the group’s First Amendment right to be positioned on the public right-of-way, but discussions with the police quickly deteriorated, as one of the officers took an extremely aggressive, hostile posture—and an open dislike for Scheidler.
He threatened to have all the group’s cars towed from the shut-down business where they had parked, at one point declaring that tow trucks were on the way. This proved to be false.
Shortly before the planned conclusion of the site at 1:00, the officer declared that the group had to leave, as they were in violation of the village’s parade permit ordinance. The police crowd control unit arrived, and a staffer heard the hostile officer on the phone asking if he could begin to arrest the entire group. However, the Tour was able to depart without further incident.
League attorneys could find no such ordinance on the books in Bridgeview, and plans are already underway to sue the village.
Passersby look at a sign held by Rich Becker at the Art Institute of Chicago, July 9 [Photo by EJS]
More Trouble in Woodridge
Police were similarly hostile in Woodridge on July 13, where it was claimed that our signs were in violation of an ordinance against “posting” signs. One officer went so far as to scream at Matt Yonke that we had no right to call our attorney for clarification. And as in Bridgeview, we were threatened with having all our cars towed from a vacant lot.
However, someone higher up must have realized that there would be trouble if our free speech rights were violated, and ultimately we were allowed to continue the protest—and keep our cars in the lot.
In contrast, police in Deerfield, Northbrook, Glenview, Niles, Naperville and most of the Chicago sites were cooperative, and police in Rockford, Evanston and Aurora were especially helpful.
Pro-Abortion Violence in Downtown Chicago
Our Truth Tours are usually peaceful events, with nothing more threatening from the public than some swearing and rude gestures. But on July 9 at Wacker Drive and Adams Street, one pro-abortion passerby turned violent.
Kathy Mieding (right) talks to a young man while Joe and Ann Scheidler (center) watch the commuters approaching Adams and Wacker, July 9 [Photo by EJS]
The Tour group had already packed up for the day, having been rained out by a downpour that swept through the region, and were in the midst of a closing prayer when John Jansen and Eric Scheidler saw one of our coolers suddenly fly out of the back of one of our vans into Wacker Drive. Next, two Malachi signs flew into the street, and John rushed to the back of the van to find a man throwing the signs out.
John tried to stop the man, who shoved him aside. John shouted, “Call the police!” and then the man pushed John so hard that he flew backward, bloodying his arm and slamming his head on the pavement. The man took off running.
Eric Scheidler, who had come around to the back of the van in time to see the man attack John, gave chase. With the help of three League volunteers, he caught him across Adams and held him until police arrived—approximately twenty minutes later. The man smelled heavily of alcohol.
One of the police officers seemed reluctant to charge the man, and a sergeant was called. There was a substantial delay waiting for the sergeant, apparently by design; the less cooperative officer said we could drop the whole thing if we didn’t feel like waiting.
A downpour delayed the start of the last Rockford site July 10, but skies cleared and the Tour went on [Photo by EJS]
When the sergeant arrived, he at first tried to suggest that Eric Scheidler had been in a “tussle” with the violent man, but after Eric insisted that he had done nothing but detain the man, the police charged him with battery. A July 30 court date was set.
Tour Blessed with Special Support
On a more positive note, the Tour was blessed this year with some touching gestures of support from the public. A man in downtown Chicago was so impressed that he donated a 100 dollar bill to the League. At several other sites, passersby donated 20 dollar bills. A man gave the group three boxes of dessert cakes, and a woman offered a case of water.
In downtown Chicago, several people saw the Tour and stopped to hold signs with the group. And in Rockford, local activist Kevin Rilott recruited a throng of first-time Tour participants for one of the best turn-outs of the week.
Press and Blogs Cover the Tour
Monte Larrick of WMBI rardio interviews Joe Scheidler on South Cicero Avenue in Chicago [Photo by EJS]
Another positive development on this year’s Tour was the unusual amount of coverage from local media, which in some past years have ignored the Tour entirely. Interviews with Ann and Joe Scheidler on WMBI Christian radio brought out some first-time volunteers. Several bloggers commented on the Tour as well.
We appreciate all this attention to the abortion issue, even when our methods are criticized. Press and blog reports on the 2007 Tour include:
- WIFR Channel 23 in Rockford—TV report on the Rockford Tour sites, plus viewer commentary
- Anti-abortion group protesting in Rockford—Article in the Rockford Star, plus reader comments
- Group’s aim is to educate with graphic abortion photos—Article by Kim Lovejoy-Voss in the Catholic Explorer, the Joliet diocesan paper
- “Anti-abortion protest in Naperville”—Post in the Sun-Times News Group’s Naperville Potluck blog, plus many comments
- “Children, not billboards”—July 10 Letter to the Editor of the Chicago Tribune, critical of the participation of children in the Tour, plus comments
- “Extremists for any cause amuse me, extremely”—Blogger Eli Hodapp comments, somewhat dismissively, on the Tour in Naperville
- “Face the Truth 2007”—Blogger Rey Flores of Lockport, Illinois defends the Tour’s visit to Joliet
- “Face the Truth”—First time Tour participant Erin Yonke, wife of Tour staffer Matt Yonke, shares her experience
- Face the Truth Tour Recap—League staffer John Jansen recounts highlights of the Tour
- “Face The Truth – Joe & Eric Scheidler speak”—Video by Quinn Olinger at YouTube
Baby Saved in Evanston
New Tour staffer Matt Yonke, offers reflections and a closing prayer in Niles, July 14 [Photo by EJS]
The most joyful highlight of the Tour came on July 14, the last day of the Tour, in Evanston, Illinois—which also happened to be among the sites with the most hostile public reception. A woman approached Jeff, a volunteer from Wisconsin, and said tearfully, “You’ve changed my mind. I was planning to get an abortion today, but after seeing these signs I can’t do it.”
Jeff shared this story with the whole group during the closing prayer in Evanston—a vindication of the entire Tour and the many battles fought during the week.