Face the Truth display near Planned Parenthood Aurora [Photo by Sam Scheidler]
The Pro-Life Action League’s Tenth Annual Face the Truth Tour July 10 to 18, 2009 was by far the most successful tour yet. League staff built on a decade of experience to run the tour with clockwork precision, while incorporating creative new tactics like unmanned, industrial strength warning signs and a fresh approach to dealing with law enforcement.
In recent years, we had experienced increasing problems with police. For example, in 2006, police in Mundelein, Illinois shut us down. In 2007, Bridgeview police threatened to tow our cars. In 2008, Joliet police limited the Tour to a mere ten signs. Overall, dealing with police was becoming increasingly disruptive to the smooth running of this critical pro-life mission.
For 2009, we resolved to take a bold, new approach to preempt these problems. Corrina Gura and I meticulously compiled a dossier of all applicable municipal codes for every site on our itinerary. Meanwhile, attorneys with the Thomas More Society formally contacted the police chiefs in each town to inform them of our plans and our expectation that our First Amendment rights would be protected. These codes and letters were carefully organized in a thick binder to be readily at hand for settling disputes with police.
Downpour Can’t Dampen Tour Spirits
Even before the Tour kicked off Friday, July 10 in the southwest Chicago suburb of Joliet, our new police strategy paid off when the chief of police called to apologize about the problems in 2008. The Tour staff—Tour Captain Eric Scheidler, his sons Nate and Sam, Ann Scheidler, John Jansen and his father Jim, Corrina Gura and I—arrived that morning confident of a great Tour ahead, and the first Joliet site went smoothly.
The spirit of enthusiasm marking the Tour from its first moments was powerfully on display at our second site in Shorewood, when it began to rain steadily. Not one volunteer left his post despite the downpour. By the time we’d finished lunch at St. Mary Immaculate Parish in Plainfield, the rain had stopped and our troops had all dried off.
At our third site, again in Joliet, a woman pulled over to ask first-time volunteer Nancy Martin where to get help for her daughter, who was considering abortion. Nancy gave her one of our Truth Tour flyers, which includes a crisis pregnancy hotline number. At the end of day we remembered this woman’s daughter and unborn grandchild in our concluding prayers.
Counter-Protesters’ Lies Exposed
Counter-protesters who followed the Tour [Photo by Sam Scheidler]
The Tour continued Saturday in the near north suburbs of Niles, Evanston and Lincolnwood, with lunch generously provided by Brian and Mary Higgins. At all three sites we faced radical counter-protesters holding signs reading Abortion on Demand and Without Apology and Life Begins When You Stand Up to Christian Fascists.
At the third stop in Lincolnwood, the counter-protesters accused League National Director Joe Scheidler of deliberately trying to cause accidents by distracting drivers with our shocking graphic signs. Over their megaphone, they shouted that pro-lifers only care about people until they’re born, while pro-choicers like them care about everyone.
But the truth was made clear when the counter-protestors began laughing at an unfortunate man whose car broke down directly in front of their protest. “It’s all words that have no meaning to them at all,” Joe remarked. “Their lack of compassion for their fellow man in a situation of real crisis gives the lie to their claim that they care about every human being.”
Downtown Tour Reaches Thousands
The Tour resumed Monday, July 13 with two days in downtown Chicago, starting with giant third trimester abortion signs over the Kennedy Expressway. I calculated that over 10,000 cars saw the signs as they passed beneath us on their morning commute. We reached thousands more Chicagoans on their lunch breaks at Daley Plaza and during the rush for the afternoon trains outside Union Station.
The next day we were joined by Jordan Mooney, a high school student from Houston, Texas with a passion for pro-life work. Jordan had come to intern for four days to learn how the Pro-Life Action League’s tours run so smoothly. Nate Scheidler showed Jordan the ropes and in no time, he was like one of the team during our sites at Buckingham Fountain, the Art Institute and back at Union Station.
The impact of our two days downtown was augmented by literature distribution on a massive scale. More volunteers than ever were deployed on this component of the Tour, passing out thousands of pro-life flyers to passersby on foot and in cars. By the Tour’s end, over 12,000 pieces of literature had been distributed, exposing the truth about abortion and offering mothers the help they need.
Assault in Arlington Heights
Eric Scheidler and Don Olson talk with police after Don was assaulted [Photo by Sam Scheidler]
The next morning we repeated last year’s fantastic turnout in Lake Zurich: nearly every graphic sign was deployed, along with many Stop Abortion Now signs. Turnout was also great in Palatine, followed by lunch in Juli Tragasz’ beautiful backyard.
At the day’s third site in Arlington Heights, a passerby pulled over and began screaming at a group of staff and volunteers getting ready to set up the next wave of signs. When volunteer Don Olson, who was already holding a sign, tried to reason with him, the man raced over and stiff-armed Don, almost knocking him to the ground.
Eric Scheidler immediately called the police and began videotaping the man, who ran off across the parking lot. He dodged into a grocery store, but when the police arrived they were not able to apprehend him. Don was unharmed, and actually felt exhilarated at having been attacked for showing the truth about abortion.
New Police Strategy Pays Off
- Video Playlist from 2009 Face the Truth Tour —Youtube.com
Thursday July 16, we returned to Bridgeview, site of one of our most heated confrontations with police back in 2007. So hostile had they been that for 2009, Tom Brejcha and the Thomas More Society filed an injunction in Federal Court to ensure we would be allowed to conduct our Tour without police interference.
A police lieutenant arrived shortly after the site began, and approached Ann and Eric Scheidler with his hands raised, saying, “I come in peace.” He assured them the city would not interfere with our First Amendment rights. Police were also cooperative at our second site in Chicago Ridge, in contrast to their belligerence in 2008. We celebrated these victories over lunch at John and Susie Chesna’s house in Oak Lawn.
Our new strategy for dealing with police paid off again in Burbank, when a police officer arrived and began ordering volunteers to leave their posts without even talking to the Tour leadership. Eric Scheidler saw the disturbance and approached the officer, who tried to insist that graphic images like these aren’t protected by the First Amendment. He also complained that we hadn’t contacted the police department to tell them we were coming.
Eric radioed to me to bring our binder of codes and letters and bought time by keeping the officer talking. His commanding officer arrived just as I did, and Eric opened the binder up to the Burbank section and showed the officers the letter we had sent their police chief two weeks before.
This immediately diffused the situation, and we were told our display could stay as long as our signs didn’t block the sidewalk. Eric and I allowed the officers to save face by agreeing to slightly move each sign, and the site continued without further incident.
Warning Sign Swiped at Midway
Alberta Rael hands out pro-life literature [Photo by Sam Scheidler]
Friday, July 17, the Tour took to the south side of Chicago, starting in Garfield Ridge, a new site in one of Chicago’s tougher neighborhoods. Passersby in this predominately black community were notably receptive and we were grateful to share the truth about abortion with one of the populations most targeted by the abortion industry.
At the end of this site, Eric Scheidler and I found one of our sturdy new warning signs was missing from the parkway outside Midway Airport. I spent much of the next site in McKinley Park on the phone with officials at Midway trying to recover the sign, but it was never returned.
At the final site of the day in the Hispanic neighborhood of Pilsen, a man named Fernando saw the display on his way to Mass and was so moved that he stopped to hold a Stop Abortion Now sign for a while.
Record Numbers in Fox Valley
The final day of the Tour began in Aurora, at the site of one of the nation’s largest Planned Parenthood abortuaries. The pro-life community of Aurora has been highly energized since the controversial facility opened under a cloud of deceit in 2007, and this site saw the largest turnout of the entire Tour, with over 120 volunteers. Every single graphic sign was deployed, along with scores of picket signs.
The Tour continued in Naperville, where we were met by the same group of counter-protesters we had seen in the near north suburbs, along with some members of the local NARAL chapter. Once again every graphic sign was displayed—totally dwarfing the pro-abortion protestors clustered on one corner.
After an exquisite lunch in the Naperville home of Michelle Dellinger—the graphic artist who designed the League’s Sharing the Pro-Life Message handbook—we hit our final site of the Tour at Fox Valley Mall on the border of Aurora and Naperville. Crossing the street is so cumbersome at this extremely busy intersection that we split up onto two opposite corners to set up the display. The two groups joined in a concluding prayer via radio, and sang “Amazing Grace” together, accompanied by Phillip Keppel on the bagpipes.
The after-Tour party was hosted at the Aurora home of Eric and April Scheidler, where volunteers broke bread and shared Tour stories. In a touching end to a successful Tour, stalwart volunteer Sally Polesel presented both Joe and Eric Scheidler with statuettes of a beautiful little baby cradled in the hands of God—just as He had cradled all of us throughout the Tour.