A group of us assembled this morning to pray and sidewalk counsel during the 40 Days for Life vigil taking place outside the Albany Medical Surgical Center abortion facility in Chicago.
In what has become a fairly regular occurrence recently during our prayer time outside Albany, two police officers arrived in two separate vehicles.
By this time, we were praying the “Jericho Rosary,” where we pray the rosary while walking from one of the sidewalk surrounding the clinic to the other.
At one end, the sidewalk runs into an alley. As we were talking toward the alley, the male officer warned the group that if we went into the alley, we would be arrested. Some members of our prayer group stopped, but I kept walking.
Then, as I was going by the male officer, he elbowed me in the chest. Be assured: I’m filing a complaint with his district commander about that.
I then continued on to the end of the alley, praying my rosary.
Shortly thereafter, I came back to the sidewalk along Carmen Avenue, where the officers had been talking with our sidewalk counselors, but by that time, they were gone.
I remained in that general area when Officer Galiardo—the female officer who had been there previously—returned.
On the public parkway along Carmen Avenue across the street from the abortion clinic, we had staked in the grounds signs reading, “Pray to End Abortion/40 Days for Life,” along with signs in English and Spanish telling pregnant women that free help was available at the Women’s Center (a pro-life pregnancy resource center) one block north.
Officer Galiardo told me that no signs were allowed to be placed on the parkway. One of her rationales was, incredibly, that the signs could be a distraction and could therefore cause an accident.
She told me that even if we applied for a permit to place signs on the parkway, we wouldn’t get one.
Officer Galiardo said that posting our signs on the public way violated Chicago Municipal Code 10-8-320, and told me that I could Google it if I wanted to read it for myself.
She then said that someone had to remove the signs. If they were still there when she came back, she would confiscate them and fine us. (Municipal Code 10-8-320 stipulates a fine of of up to $1,000.) She pleaded with us to obey the law because, she said, the police “don’t like to keep coming here.”
I called my wife Ann at our office, and she looked up the ordinance, which, it turns out, refers merely to commercial advertising material.
Figuring that complying with Officer Galiardo’s outrageous demand was in our best interests—considering that this would strengthen our case against the Chicago Police Department over their continual suppression of our First Amendment rights—one member of our group did “remove” the signs, but then placed them in a new spot.
Will the police confiscate our signs and fine us? Time will tell.
But in the meantime, we won’t let a run-in — or a series of run-ins — with the police get in the way of our mission of praying and saving babies outside abortion clinics.