Display pro-life banners on highway overpasses

Displaying pro-life banners on a busy highway overpass is an effective way to reach tens of thousands of people with the pro-life message in a relatively short time with only a small group of volunteers.

The Pro-Life Action League has produced a Pro-Life Banner Kit to enable you to take advantage of this powerful opportunity to get people thinking and talking about abortion in your community with the message, “Abortion takes a human life.”

To conduct a Pro-Life Bridge outreach, order your Banner Kit and follow the detailed instructions below:

Safety and legal concerns

Your pro-life bridge outreach will present no safety or legal concerns. The banner kits engineered for this project are extremely sturdy and secure, and following the simple instruction for their display will ensure they are completely safe. From a driver’s perspective, the banners are essentially no different from any road sign or billboard.

Also, our First Amendment right to display pro-life banners on highway overpasses has been clearly established by the federal courts. In fact, the Pro-Life Action League’s legal team won one of those cases! See below for more information on working with the police if they express any concerns.

Choosing your bridge

The ideal highway overpass for this project will have sidewalks on both sides; nearby parking for your team; no obstructing signage or fencing; and multiple lanes on the highway below, with significant traffic during rush hour. But many overpasses that fall short of the ideal still make great locations for this project.

To find the right bridge, pick a busy highway in your area, find it on Google Maps, switch to “satellite view,” and then search along the highway for potential bridges. A good bridge will have a straight stretch of highway on either side so that traffic can see your signs for as long as possible. It’s important that your bridge have sidewalks on both sides of the street, to ensure your team’s safety.

Use Google Maps Street View to more closely examine your bridge, both from the overpass and from the highway. It might also be helpful to check the typical traffic during rush hour.

If you need help selecting a bridge or want to verify that you’ve made a good choice, contact the Pro-Life Action League.

Assembling your team

Conducting a bridge outreach in your community requires a team of 5 people: 2 for each banner (one facing each direction of traffic), and a “floater.” The floater’s job is to relieve any of the banner holders if they need a break, take photos, talk to any police or passersby who stop to talk about the display, and communicate between the two pairs holding the banners.

If you have more than 5 people willing to take part in this project, you may want to schedule them in shifts of 60-90 minutes —especially if you plan to be out on your bridge for more than 2 hours at a time (see below).

If you find you have more than 5 people on hand during your display, the “extras” can simply wave to the cars on the highway below.

Deciding when to display your banners

The best time to display your pro-life banners is during rush hour, when traffic is at its slowest and heaviest. You’ll need to decide whether to set up during morning rush hour (6:00-9:00 a.m.) or afternoon rush hour (3:00-6:00 p.m.).

You may also decide to do both the morning and afternoon rush hours. But this should only be attempted if volunteers are certain to be plentiful; otherwise, focus on one or the other.

We recommend that you hold your banners for at least 2 hours during the period you’ve chosen, but you are welcome to go longer. But be sure not to exhaust your volunteers.

Your local team can also decide whether to vary these times to fit local conditions. For example, in some metropolitan areas, Friday traffic is heavy from the early afternoon through the late evening; any 2 hours within that time frame would be suitable.

What about rain? Your banner and frame are fully weatherproof. If rain is forecast, either reschedule your bridges outreach, or bring some rain ponchos for your team so you’re prepared. Inexpensive rain ponchos are available at most dollar stores.

Setting up your banners

Your banner kit contains two banners and frames, four blue bungee cords, and extra zip ties. (Note: Banners are 6′ x 3′.) Also included with each kit is a sheet of instructions, detailing how to set up your banners, safely walk them onto the bridge, and position them over the lanes of highway traffic below.

Some other considerations:

  • Wave to the cars on the highway below. This kind of interaction makes drivers more likely to notice your banner and react positively to your pro-life message.
  • Be friendly to any passersby, and ignore any negative reactions you might get.
  • Use only your pro-life banners. Do not use any smaller pro-life signs you may have, as these will be a distraction for highway drivers and will not be legible.

Working with police

There’s every chance that you will not see the police during your time displaying pro-life banners on your bridge, or that the police will simply pass by without stopping.

If the police do stop to talk to you, they will most likely simply be asking for some basic information, like how how long you intend to be holding your banners. But if they tell you that you are not allowed to display your banners, politely inform them that you have a constitutional right to do so, and show them the Legal Memo that was provided with your Banner Kit.

As the memo shows, the federal courts have established that highway overpasses are generally considered public forums in which our First Amendment rights may be exercised. So you should politely resist any initial attempt by the police to shut down your display.

If the police are unreasonable or don’t believe you have a right to hold your display on your particular bridge, ask them if they intend to arrest you if you do not comply with their order to leave the bridge. Police will often back down from a demand like this if they have to make an arrest.

But if they say they will arrest you, then you should comply with the order to leave. Then be sure to inform the Pro-Life Action League about what happened, including the names and badge numbers of the officers involved. We will consult with our attorneys to determine if further legal action is warranted.

Though it’s unlikely, there is a chance that you may attract counter-protesters during your bridges outreach. But this is nothing to worry about: typically counter-protest groups are small and will not interfere with your activity. In many cases, passersby think the counter-protestors are part of the pro-life group—especially when their signs are smaller and harder to read.

Discourage interaction between your pro-life group and any counter-protestors. They are extremely unlikely to respond well to pro-life talking points, and sometimes try to use heated arguments to distract us from what we’re there to do.

In the very unlikely event that counter-protesters attempt to disrupt your event, they are breaking the law and you need to get the police to defend your rights to free expression and assembly. Call 911 if the police are not already on site.

For more information, see Dealing with counter-protesters at your pro-life event.

Documenting your bridge outreach

It is important to document your bridge outreach, as you would do for any pro-life activity. You can use pictures, videos, and your count of the number of drivers you reached to give the event greater reach through social media.

Determining how many cars you’ve reached

To calculate the impact of your bridge outreach, you need to estimate how many people you reached. To do so, you will first take a count of how many vehicles pass by in each direction during a 3-minute period.

To take your 3-minute count, assign one person on each of your two banners to count vehicles for precisely 3 minutes. The people assigned this job should set a 3-minute timer on their phone or watch and do their best to count every single vehicle that goes by. For additional accuracy, a second 3-minute sample could be taken, and the two figures averaged.

Add up the totals from both directions, and multiply by 20 to get your one-hour total. Then multiply the one-hour total by the total number of hours you were out on your bridge. Finally, multiply that number by 1.5 to account for passengers.

For example, if you count 104 cars going in one direction and 112 cars going in the other direction, that equals 216 cars every 3 minutes, or 4,320 cars in one hour (216 x 20). If you were on the bridge for 2 hours, your estimated car total is 8,640. Multiply that total by 1.5 to find your estimate of commuters reached: 12,960 people.

Taking photos and videos of your bridge outreach

It’s important that you take some pictures of your bridges outreach to show the impact of your bridges outreach and help recruit leaders for future projects like this. If you send photos to the Pro-Life Action League, we’ll share them on our social media channels!

If possible, try to recruit an additional volunteer, beyond the minimum requirement of 5, to take pictures and video of your bridge outreach. Ideally this person will have a camera of their own and know how to use it well. If possible, have them drive beneath your bridge and take some pictures of your display as they pass.

You might also want to take pictures of your set-up process, each of the pairs holding banners (taken from the bridge itself), interactions with passersby or police, or any other sights of interest. And after your time on the bridge, snap a picture of your whole team gathered around one of your banners.

Caring for your banners

Your banners and frames were designed to be sturdy, UV-resistant, and capable of being used for many years to come. To ensure a long life for your banners, follow these care instructions:

  • Leave your banners affixed to the PVC frames, just as they were shipped to you.
  • Collapse the legs of each frame, and then roll each banner up around the frame pieces, being sure that the blank side is facing out (this will protect the message side of the banner).
  • Don’t ever fold your banners. Instead, roll them up when not in use, as described above.
  • Avoid putting anything on top of the banners to avoid creasing, which can cause the color to wear away.
  • Store your banners and frames in the long cardboard box in which they were shipped.

Need more help?

If, after reviewing these instructions, you need more help deciding whether to take on this project, or special advice on making it work, please contact the Pro-Life Action League. We’ll do everything we can to assist your local team and help you reach tens of thousands with the pro-life message!

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