John O’Reilly and Dan Wenzel talk to police in Joliet, July 11
The Pro-Life Action League’s ninth annual Summer Face the Truth Tour was one of the most exciting and well-attended in years, despite some significant challenges from the weather, the opposition, and some uncooperative police departments. After unprecedented difficulties with police during last year’s Tour, we decided to contact all police departments in advance this time, but even so we had to fight for our rights.
Police Shut Down Joliet Tour Site
The tour commenced on Friday, July 11, in the Joliet area. Towards the end of the first site, police informed Tour Captain Eric Scheidler that, despite five years of Tour stops in Joliet with no problems at all, they were going to enforce a “parade ordinance” which prohibits gatherings of more than ten people without a permit. Attorney Jason Craddock of the Thomas More Society, Chicago, was with us that morning and was able to persuade the police to let us finish the stop.
The third site, however, did not go as smoothly. Joliet police arrived on the scene almost immediately, clearly angry before they even talked to anyone. They told Eric, once again, that they would be enforcing their “parade ordinance”. Eric and Jason did all they could to forestall threatened arrests of Tour volunteers, but eventually had to take down the Tour signs—all but ten, which was the maximum allowed by the ordinance.
The Power of Graphic Pictures
But those ten signs were enough to give one young woman the chance to choose life. James Voissem, a high school student and one of this year’s most dedicated volunteers, was approached by a young woman who saw the display. She asked him for some literature, explaining that she had a pregnant friend who was planning on having an abortion. She said she knew her friend really didn’t want the abortion and that once she saw these pictures she was sure her friend wouldn’t do it.
The small number of signs was also enough to inspire a counter protest by a handful of teenagers, one of whose signs read “Support Abortion”. The pro-abortion group was untroubled by the police. When an egg was thrown from a car at the pro-life group, police were slow to react, losing the chance to catch the perpetrator, despite having several squad cars at hand with engines running.
Truth Tour along McCormic Blvd in Lincolnwood, July 12
Police were far more cooperative on our next Tour date, Saturday, July 12, with three wellattended and smooth-running sites in the near north suburbs: Niles, Evanston and Lincolnwood.
Outreach on the Downtown Tour
After a day of rest on Sunday, we brought the Tour to downtown Chicago Monday and Tuesday, July 14-15. We began with a return to the Kennedy Overpasses that we had avoided last year because of problems with police, but the site went well this year.
At the next site at Daley Plaza, long-time volunteer Luann Bloom had a girl stop and tell her she was utterly confused by the signs. She told Luann she was pregnant and her boyfriend had given her $300 to get an abortion, but now that she had seen the reality of abortion she didn’t know what to do. Luann spoke with her at length about what abortion really entails and, when the girl was still uncertain, Luann gave her her phone number and told her that if the young lady didn’t want the baby, she would adopt him as her own. The two-day downtown Tour also visited Lake Shore Drive, the Art Institute and the heavy commuter corridors of Adams Street and Madison Street at Wacker Drive.
Record Numbers on Tour
Many sites saw incredible turnout this year,including one of our best-ever days in Rockford on Wednesday, July 16. During the final site in Rockford, Eric Scheidler was a guest of Mark Mayhew on WNTA talk radio, answering questions from callers via cell phone.
In Lake Zurich on Thursday, July 17 a combined effort between homeschool groups, churches, and local activists like long-time volunteer Jim Finnegan, drew a crowd beyond anyone’s expectations. Over 100 people came out in the pounding noon-day sun to show Lake Zurich the truth about abortion. Every one of the 84 graphic signs the League brought as well as many picket signs were deployed. Aiding our efforts was the fact that Lake Zurich police had placed their own warning signs, freeing up four volunteers to hold graphic signs.
At the final stop of the day we returned to site atRoute 45 and Route 60 in Mundelein where police shut us down in 2006. Because of our advanced notice, we were granted a permit this year, but the police insisted on our leaving promptly at 4:30, even going so far as to interrupt our closing prayer.
However, the sting of that demand was lifted when, hurrying back to our cars, we learned that the Mundelein site had saved a baby. A woman had pulled over and talked to two sign-holders, saying that she had driven by earlier with her daughter who was pregnant and planning on abortion. She told them that when her daughter saw the signs, she broke into tears and told her that she could no longer go through with the abortion and had decided to have the baby. The mother then began crying herself, saying, “You people saved a life today. Thank you!”
Chicago Ridge Police Try to Halt Tour
On Friday, July 18, the Tour visited the South Side of Chicago. After fruitful stops in Gage Park and Garfield Ridge—where we were able to reach critical minority communities—the last site of the day was 95th Street and Ridgeland Avenue, right next to the Chicago Ridge Mall.
Ridgeland divides the towns of Oak Lawn and Chicago Ridge at 95th Street, and while the Oak Lawn police were cooperative, the Chicago Ridge police were very opposed to our presence there, insisting, like Joliet, that we needed a permit.
The Chief of Police of Chicago Ridge was called out in plain clothes to attempt to put a stop to the display. Finally, Tour Captain Eric Scheidler called Tom Brejcha of the Thomas More Society, Chicago, who in turn called their city attorney. Brejcha told them they could shut down our display and deal with the matter later in federal court, or they could simply let us finish the site. Thanks to Brejcha’s intervention, they chose to back down and let the display run its course.
All Records Broken in Western Suburbs
Alberta Rael holds a LIFE sign in the rain in Naperville, July 19
A record Truth Tour crowd of 150 came out to the first site of our final day, Saturday July 19, at Aurora’s infamous “Abortion Fortress”, despite the threat of rain. We began with a picket using our waterproof picket signs from our nearby storage locker. Once the weather broke we lined both sides of New York Street with graphic signs, plus several JESUS FORGIVES AND HEALS signs at the corner of New York and Oakhurst Drive. Police gave Joe Scheidler a hard time about holding one of these JESUS signs on the southeast corner, a spot the City claims is “residential” and therefore off limits to protest, a claim we dispute.
At the second site in Naperville, all 84 signs were once again deployed, this time despite steady rains throughout the second half of the stop. Pro-lifers didn’t mind the rain one bit. In fact, many saw it as an excellent opportunity to offer their discomfort for the sufferings of the victims of abortion. Several Naperville teens showed up near the end of the site with hand-made picket signs with such bizarre slogans as HITLER’S MOTHERWAS PRO-LIFE and HONK IF YOU CHOOSE TO DO SO.
Eric Hosts End-of-Tour Party
In past years, the Tour has concluded with a party at Joe and Ann Scheidler’s home in Chicago, but this year’s party was held at Eric Scheidler’s home in Aurora. During the party, stalwart activist Sally Polesel presented both Joe and Eric Scheidler’s families each with a beautiful three foot tall statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe in gratitude for their service and sacrifice in the pro-life movement.
Ann and Joe both agreed that this year’s Face the Truth Tour was one of the best they could remember in the nine years of the Tour’s history. It was an honor to work with such a great crew this year, including Tour Captain Eric Scheidler, his sons Nate and Sam, John Jansen and his father Jim, Corrina Gura and Pete and Ann Scheidler.
Thanks also to all who volunteered their time and to all who remembered the Tour in their prayers.