Events Prior To the Arrest
Joe Holland, a graduate student at Northwestern University, stopped by our office last month. He and I talked about the text of the Chicago Bubble Zone Ordinance [pdf].
I pointed out that invariably the interpretations given by the Planned Parenthood staff and the police who arrive are just wrong (see my previous blog posts here and here). Once we get the police to read the text of the ordinance, they pretty much always realize that what we’re doing is okay and we’re allowed to continue without changing anything.
This discussion followed on the heels of David Avignone’s two police encounters the week before. In those instances the police recognized that he had a right to stand near the doorway of the clinic—even if Planned Parenthood doesn’t like it. This is because the law does not give the door a bubble, it gives people a bubble that we cannot approach within.
July 3 Arrest
So while many of us were enjoying our long Fourth of July weekend, Joe and several other pro-lifers went to the Planned Parenthood on Division and LaSalle to pray and counsel.
Unfortunately, Officer Stevens was the officer to arrive on the scene.
Who Is Officer Stevens?
Officer Stevens is the one who, in January, told the deathscorts that “There’s a new law, and if they [the pro-lifers] knew about that law, they wouldn’t even be out here.” I assured him we know about the Bubble Zone and that we still had a right to be there.
When a pro-lifer questioned him about an incident that occurred that day in which a Planned Parenthood volunteer stole information from the hand of a woman entering the clinic, Stevens refused to look in to it, saying that what she did was acceptable since “they are here to help women, and you all are here to harass them.”
Stevens Takes Out His Pro-Abortion Bias on Joe
So when Stevens arrived on July 3 by himself, trouble may have been inevitable.
When Joe refused to heed the deathscort’s order to move, Stevens refused to look at the text of the ordinance. He also refused to look into the facts of the case. Namely, the deathscort had left her post and Joe moved there while there was no one within eight feet of him. So he couldn’t have violated the Bubble. In fact, when she walked up to him and ordered him to move and then moved to stand directly in front of him, she was violating the ordinance! (You can see her do this in the video on YouTube.)
He also didn’t punish Joe according to the ordinance. He should have written him a ticket for disorderly conduct (a maximum fine of $500) and given him a court date.
Instead Joe was taken to jail, where his mugshot was taken and he remained for several hours until he could make bail. That’s a far cry from standard procedure!
Story Makes National News
When Joe and his attorneys came to court on Tuesday, the corporate counsel had a private discussion with the three Planned Parenthood representatives who were present, then told the court he was dropping the charges.
It seems like somebody finally recognized that if the full story came out—including PP’s surveillance video and call to 911, which TMS attorney Peter Breen had subpoenaed—it wouldn’t be good for Planned Parenthood.
Stevens’ Second Pro-Life Arrest
Thankfully Joe Holland’s part of the saga is over, but David is waiting for his day in court.
Just days after Officer Stevens hauled Joe off to jail, he pulled a repeat performance on David. This time it was because David was having a conversation with a potential PP client.
Stevens also came back a few days later to tell pro-lifers that the “spirit of the law” is that pro-lifers cannot have a conversation with anyone outside the clinic without “explicit verbal consent.”
It seems to me that if that’s what the folks who wrote the law wanted, that’s what they would have written, and that “consent” is quite different from “explicit verbal consent.” But I’m not an attorney. (Come to think of it, neither is Officer Stevens…)
So the story continues, and I know David would appreciate your prayers for a favorable outcome on August 30. I pray we will have another victory to report.