Since the Chicago Bubble Zone was first enacted in 2009, the majority of the trouble has taken place at the Planned Parenthood clinic at Division and LaSalle on the city’s Near North Side. The one exception was the first day the ordinance went into effect, when Ann Scheidler was told she could not stand within 50 feet of the entrance to the clinic.
Well, the situation at PP has cooled down ever since the arrest and subsequent dropping of charges against supposed bubble zone violators there.
Sergeant Kivel Lays Down “The Law”
Now the tension at Albany has increased. Four officers responded to the calls from the clinic about the pro-lifers this morning. The one in charge–and the least pleasant one–was one Sergeant Kivel.
He began by talking to the pro-lifers who sidewalk counsel standing along the edge of the public alley. Cathy, one of the counselors, told me he said, “I am not a happy man” about being called out there.
He said they could not be in the alley, and that the alley is for cars, not people. When Cathy said they’d been in that alley for many years, he said it was a miracle no one had been hit yet. The only reason people can walk through the alley is if they are going to their garage or their house. I said I’d been standing there yesterday and the officer hadn’t said a word about it. But yesterday was Kivel’s day off, so I was just lucky yesterday.
Then he walked over to the street entrance to the clinic. He told the pro-lifers there they couldn’t stand within “this area” and pointed to the second pole from the opening onto the parking lot (about 5 feet from the opening). I asked how far back we were supposed to stand and he said the law says we cannot stand within 50 feet of the entrance, explaining that where he told us to stand was 50 feet (although the actual distance was far less, I wasn’t going to point that out to him!). He said we cannot stand within that area, that if we keep walking it’s OK to pass the entrance, but that we cannot stop.
When I asked Kivel where in the Bubble Zone law [pdf] it said these things, he said that if we want to discuss the law and the interpretation that we can do it after he has taken us into the station. I offered to show him the text of the law and he said he would not look at it or discuss it because if he discussed these things with everyone, that’s all he’d ever do all day long. I offered to call an attorney to discuss this with him; he also declined this.
The List of Laws We Might Be Breaking Is Enormous
He said even if we weren’t violating the bubble zone law, there were many other laws he could enforce against us–loitering, littering, blocking pedestrian access to the sidewalk, placing signs on the public way, etc. He explained that he tries to enforce laws in order of importance, but we should understand that if he wanted to, there are many laws he could enforce against us, but that he was trying to not do that.
Cathy came up to clarify the alleyway issue. He said that if a car were to stop to accept the literature that he could issue the driver a citation for blocking the road, even if there’s no car behind that one.
After these less than helpful clarifications, the officers returned to their cars. Kivel eventually drove off, leaving only one officer to watch us.
Which Law Is It That We’re Breaking By Being in The Alley?
At this time Thomas More Society Executive Director and attorney, Peter Breen, returned my call. I explained the situation. He asked me to clarify which ordinance/law/statute we were violating by standing in the alley (so he could research the issue more fully) and to make sure I had everyone’s name and badge numbers.
I walked up to Officer Ranne’s car and asked him which ordinance it was that said we could not be in the alley. He said he didn’t know the number, but it was the disorderly conduct statute (aka the Bubble Zone). I asked if he knew the alley was more than 50 feet from the door to the clinic and he said the law applies to 50 feet from the entrance to the property.
Ranne left, and for about 10 minutes there were no police. Then Sergeant Kivel returned, parking on Elston Avenue, right near where I was standing. He sat in the car watching us for a time. Then he took a walk down to Carmen Avenue, where three groups of about 20 Prayer Warriors (in total) were praying. He weaved among the crowd and walked to the alley. When he saw no one was in the alley he turned back around.
I asked him if he could clarify which ordinance number was being enforced which says we cannot stand in the alley. He asked, “Have you been arrested?” I said “No.” He said, “Then I haven’t enforced it yet.” I restated my question and he told me that “Vehicles are allowed in the roadway, pedestrians are not.” I asked, “Is there an ordinance number that says this?” He replied, “I’m sure there is” and just stared at me. At that point I didn’t know quite what to say, but I wrote down what he said because that’s not the reply I expected to receive!
When I left, all of the police officers were gone. I’m sure they will return, if not today, then the next time pro-lifers are at that clinic. I can only hope it doesn’t take some good pro-lifers getting thrown in jail before the police read the full text of the ordinance to figure out how to enforce it correctly.