Pro-life activists protesting a new Illinois Planned Parenthood location are facing conflicting legal advice from city officials and threats of mass arrests from the local police chief.
Large protests take place monthly at the Aurora, Illinois Planned Parenthood facility, which is the largest of its kind in the nation. Protestors have alleged First Amendment violations of their free speech rights, and a lawsuit is pending against the city.
Aurora Police Chief William Powell claims the protestors have been "threatening" and called a paddy wagon to last month's protests. At Tuesday's City Council Meeting, Chief Powell stated "I hope [demonstrators] will go along with what we ask them to do. If not, I will guarantee there will be arrests made."
"We have bent over backwards to accommodate the protesters there, but they are starting to abuse us," Powell said, according to the Herald News. "They threaten us out there; they threaten to sue us. They shove cameras in our faces as a way to intimidate us and get what they want."
Eric Scheidler, Communications Director for the Pro- Life Action League and an Aurora resident, joined by other protestors, had a heated discussion with Chief Powell at the Planned Parenthood site Friday morning.
"Chief Powell was visibly irate as we tried to discuss the plans for the gathering tomorrow," states Scheidler. "When I brought up that the city's outside counsel had given us directives as to the operation of the protest, he said he didn't care about what the attorney said, he would do what he wanted to do. At times, he was so angry that another officer intervened to calm him down."
Scheidler told the Herald News that local police have been inconsistent in their instructions on what pro-life protesters should do. Every protest seems to include new directions on where to stand or what laws to follow, he says, and he can't seem to get a clear answer from local officials.
"I don't know how to deal with people with whom communication seems to be impossible," he said. "I would welcome a clear, concise statement, if I had any confidence it would be adhered to and followed."
Chief Powell said he has no plans to give the pro-life advocates clear instructions on how to legally protest the new center in upcoming events.
Instead of clear instructions, Scheidler says that the police arrived on the scene and began to “intimidate hundreds of Aurora citizens with an armored paddy wagon, constant video surveillance and the city's lawyer in tow."
The opening of the Planned Parenthood facility was scheduled for mid-September, but it was delayed after allegations the facility acquired its occupancy and building permits through deceptive practices. Though the facility opened on October 2, various investigations regarding zoning issues are still ongoing.
Mr. Scheidler vows that the monthly demonstrations will continue, "Regardless of the threats and tactics the city uses to try to keep their citizen's voices from being heard, we will be here praying and marching until no more innocent human lives are slaughtered in our town."