Last Friday, August 1, Maryland State Troopers arrested eighteen pro-lifers participating in a “Face the Truth” Tour in Bel Air, Maryland. Defend Life of Maryland sponsored the Tour, which had been a great success thus far. Our own Eric Scheidler had visited the Tour last Wednesday to participate and give a talk. The confrontation arose when a state trooper told tour captain Jack Ames that they had to put their signs away and leave. If they did not comply, he told them he would start making arrests. In an effort to comply, Jack moved the site to Bel Air, Maryland, just a little way down the road from where they had originally set up. A short while later, with no warning, about twenty squad cars pulled up to the scene and began to arrest people without a word. The pro-lifers were not told what they were being arrested for, nor were they read their rights. They were simply handcuffed and taken to jail. At least two of the arrested suffered medical problems after sitting in handcuffs reported to be too tight for over half an hour. Two of the pro-lifers were minors who were soon released into their parents’ custody. The rest, however, spent the entire night in the jail. Though the men and women were held in separate cells, they could hear one another and passed the night singing hymns and praying just like St. Paul and St. Silas in the Acts of the Apostles. The last of the adults were released the next morning and were finally informed that they were charged with loitering, failing to obey a lawful order, and disorderly conduct. The Pro-Life Action League’s National Director Joe Scheidler had this to say:
We’ve got to protect our 1st amendment rights or we’ll lose them. When police on their own can act like storm troopers as these officers did, we are in danger of losing all our freedoms. If we lose the 1st amendment, we’ll be no better off than any totalitarian dictatorship.
And attorney Peter Breen of the Thomas More Society, Chicago said:
This shows the need for proper police training in the nature of the law. The first amendment is as much a part of the law as any permit requirement or parade ordinance, and in fact, it takes precedence over all of them.
Updates will follow as these troopers are held accountable for their actions. Once again, pro-lifers are the last and seemingly only line of defense protecting our first amendment rights.