2010 Face the Truth Tour downtown Chicago [Photo by Sam Scheidler]
Staff and volunteers all agreed that the Pro-Life Action League’s 11th annual “Face the Truth” Tour, which ran from July 9 to 17, was one of the best Tours yet. Despite occasional difficulty with police and passersby, a fantastic crew of stalwarts and many fresh recruits showed the truth about abortion to thousands across northern Illinois.
Tour Captain Eric Scheidler led a veteran crew comprised of myself, Ann Scheidler, Corrina Gura, John Jansen, John’s father Jim Jansen, and Eric’s sons Nate and Sam, along with Eric’s daughter Liza in her debut on the Tour staff.
Tour Kicks Off with Big Victory
Before the Tour’s July 9 launch, we scored our first victory. On July 7, we received word from police in West Chicago—the very first site of the Tour and one of three new sites the first day—that they considered our display to be in violation of a new ordinance restricting public protest.
Joe Scheidler flys Old Glory in West Chicago, IL [Photo by Sam Scheidler]
Through a battery of phone calls, the League’s attorneys at the Thomas More Society Pro-Life Law Center of Chicago attempted to explain to the city officials that our display is protected under the First Amendment, but they continued to insist that it would violate their ordinance—and that they would arrest participants should we go forward with our plans.
Having exhausted all other remedies, League attorneys drew up a lawsuit to file against the city in Federal Court. The very real threat of a costly court defeat quickly resolved the situation: the Tour went on and West Chicago committed to amend their unconstitutional city code.
The West Chicago site came off smoothly. Between the second and third sites in St. Charles and Batavia, Nancy Weber and her daughters Patty and Dolores provided a delicious lunch. Several media outlets covered the Tour’s first day, including Relevant Radio host Drew Mariani, who did an interview with Eric Scheidler.
Man Threatens Odd Lawsuit in Joliet
Saturday, July 10, the Tour headed south to the Joliet area. The weather was picture perfect, sunny but not too hot, and a great crowd of volunteers followed the Tour through all three sites, two in Joliet and one in Shorewood, with lunch graciously provided by parishioners at St. Mary Immaculate Parish in Plainfield.
At the final stop of the day at Route 59 and Caton Farm Road in Joliet, a man stopped and began taking close-up pictures of Tour volunteers. He told staffer Jim Jansen that he had been offended by previous League Tours and that his eightyear old son was in tears after seeing the display. He proclaimed that he had finally figured out a way to defeat the League: he would take pictures of our demonstration and sue us for “pornography.”
Eric noticed the man taking a picture of his eleven-year-old daughter Clare, and began shooting video. When the man noticed Eric and his camera, he marched across the street to yell at Eric for several minutes before stalking off and declaring that he would list Eric personally in the lawsuit. Eric encouraged him to do so. We have yet to hear from the gentleman regarding his suit.
Huge Exposure in Downtown Chicago
Face the Truth signs over the Kennedy Expressway in Chicago [Photo by Sam Scheidler]
After a restful Sunday, the Tour headed to downtown Chicago for two days in the heart of urban America. The first site on Monday, July 12 was on the overpasses above the Kennedy Expressway – a major artery for traffic entering and leaving Chicago.
League staff and volunteers perched eight-foot tall third trimester abortion signs along three overpasses. By my calculations, at least 200 cars went by every minute. By even a conservative reckoning, at least 25,000 people saw the true face of abortion at this site alone.
Counter-protesters joined the Tour for the second and third sites at Daley Plaza and Union Station, including a handful of high-school girls, who talked to Liza Scheidler as she held a “Honk for Life” sign near them, neutralizing their “Honk for Choice” sign.
Their knowledge of abortion methods, the development of the unborn child and other simple relevant facts was abysmal. They advocated absurd theories, like the idea that a child isn’t really a human being until three years old, all the while berating Liza for being “brainwashed.” Liza tried to engage them in dialog, but was rebuffed by insults and crude gestures. Their pro-abortion leaders had not equipped them to understand the issue, but only to parrot pro-choice dogma.
Crusaders for Life Join the Tour
On our second day downtown, members of the teen pro-life group “Crusaders for Life” joined the Tour. It was a great encouragement to see dozens of motivated young people willing to sacrifice a beautiful summer day to stand up for their unborn brothers and sisters. With ranks swelling from the influx of Crusaders, sites at Buckingham Fountain, the Art Institute of Chicago and Union Station provided huge displays for passersby, sometimes stretching several city blocks.
At the second site, a student from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago assaulted two Tour volunteers by throwing their signs out into busy Michigan Avenue. When League Staffer Corrina Gura began taking video, he fled, trying to steal Corrina’s camera as he passed. I yelled for someone to call the police and gave chase. After a madcap pursuit through the basement of the School of the Art Institute, several other students helped him escape before police could apprehend him.
At the final site near Union Station, thousands of commuters saw the true face of abortion on their way to their evening trains. Eric pointed out this strategic Tour site brings the pro-life message to the whole six-county area, as commuters carry the vivid memory of abortion images back home with them on the train. “Thousands of long-overdue conversations on the abortion issue will take place this evening because of League was here,” Eric said.
Unexpected Conflict over Lake Zurich
Face the Truth Tour in Lake Zurich, IL [Photo by Sam Scheidler]
The Tour moved north on Wednesday, July 14, through the suburbs of Deerfield, Northbrook and Glenview. Though passersby in these affluent communities gave some stiff opposition—including a doctor in Glenview who bizarrely tried to block a third trimester “Choice” sign sign with a towel before police convinced him to move on—many fruitful exchanges took place as well. Lunch was provided by devoted League volunteer Vince Jans and his mother, Marguerite.
Thursday, July 15 was by far the biggest day of the Tour. Once again a large contingent of Crusaders for Life joined the Tour and every sign was deployed at the first stop in Lake Zurich, a site that has become an annual high-point.
Outside of a brief confrontation initiated by a profanity-spewing local business owner, the site ran smoothly and police onsite were cooperative. So it was a great shock when, a week after the Tour, League director Joe Scheidler received a call from a reporter asking for his response to Lake Zurich Chief of Police Patrick Finlon’s letter sharply criticizing the League, copied to the Daily Herald newspaper.
The reporter had to explain that Chief Finlon had written a scathing letter, claiming the Tour was deliberately intended to interfere with traffic and put undue strain on his force. He declared the League must obtain his permission before returning to Lake Zurich and must inform him in advance of where and when the display would be set up—facts already provided in the letter League attorneys sent him before the July Tour. Finlon’s letter arrived in our office a few hours after the reporter’s call.
Joe responded with his own letter to the editor, setting the record straight, and League attorneys informed Chief Finlon that his demands were unconstitutional. To keep our freedoms secure, we scheduled a return to Lake Zurich for the September Truth Day.
But we knew nothing of the coming controversy as the Tour date continued with a site in Palatine, followed by lunch at Palatine Hills Park provided by Juli Tragasz and the Holy Ghost Ladies Auxiliary from Ss. Theresa and Thomas Churches. The day ended with a stop in Arlington Heights.
The sites on the south side of Chicago on Friday, July 16 were very successful, starting at an interchange of the Stevenson Expressway near Midway Airport. The second site, straddling the border between Chicago Ridge and Oak Lawn, had met with police conflict in a previous visit, but went very well this year. A delicious lunch was provided by the Chesna family at their nearby home.
At the day’s final stop in Burbank—another site of previous police troubles—a group of counterprotesters came out. More often than not, these folks have no desire to dialog or discuss the issues. They’re typically hostile if we try to engage them. But this group was different. Eric and I approached them and they were immediately willing to talk. One of them was writing a story about the Truth Tour for an online news site and took a lengthy video interview with Eric. Eric found them to be both civil and and openminded—such a promising interaction was a pleasant way to end a great Tour day.
Spirit Juice Films Tour Finale
Spirit Juice Studios interviews Joe Scheidler [Photo by Sam Scheidler]
On Saturday, July 17, the Tour took to the streets of the western suburbs of Aurora and Naperville for its final day. Eric and I both live in Aurora, making for an exciting hometown protest. But even more exciting, we were accompanied by Rob Kaczmark and his crew from Spirit Juice Studios, whom we brought in to record video throughout the day. Rob has worked with such spectacular campaigns as CatholicVote.org and the student protest of Barack Obama at Notre Dame.
Big crowds and great weather made it the perfect day for a video shoot. At the first site outside Planned Parenthood Aurora, the largest abortion facility in the Midwest, some people from an outreach ministry to the local Mexican population stopped to talk. They were eager to get involved with the League, saying many of the people they serve do not know the truth about abortion.
At the second site in Naperville, we tested the boundaries of a new ordinance forbidding signs within 20 feet of the corner. A rigid interpretation of the law would have ruined our display, but Eric persuaded the police to adopt a more reasonable view, and we set up almost exactly as usual.
The Tour concluded at New York Street and Route 59, one of the state’s most heavily trafficked intersections, right through the sprawling Fox Valley Mall. Tour staff expertly met the challenges offered by such a site, and the Tour ended smoothly.
Final Party at the Aurora Scheidlers’
After eight jam-packed days of activism, the Tour group gathered for a final party at Eric and April Scheidler’s Aurora home, sharing “war stories” from the fantastically successful Tour, and looking forward to another great Tour next summer.