From a press release:
Florida Police Warned Not to Violate First Amendment Rights of Peaceful Pro-Life Protesters
Thomas More Society tells Pro-Life Advocates to Proceed with Prayer Vigil at Kissimmee Planned Parenthood
(April 4, 2014 – Kissimmee, FL) The Thomas More Society, a Chicago-based public interest law firm, together with Florida attorney Frederick Nelson of Orlando’s American Liberties Institute, have joined forces to demand that the City of Kissimmee, Florida, cease harassing peaceful pro-life protesters by ordering that they either comply with an alleged permit requirement, that is both unwritten and unconstitutional, or else face arrest for picketing and prayer vigils on the public sidewalk in Kissimmee, next to the proposed site of a new Planned Parenthood abortion facility.
“The First Amendment guarantees the rights of individuals to gather peacefully on the public sidewalk to express their peaceable and profound moral opposition to the grave evil of abortion” said Tom Brejcha, president and chief counsel of the Chicago-based Thomas More Society. “The police are blatantly violating the First Amendment when they threaten to arrest a small, peaceful gathering of individuals for praying on the public sidewalk because they do not have a permit—a permit which is plainly not required by any city ordinance, for which the police department has no forms or guidelines, and which, even if purportedly required by written ordinance, would constitute an impermissible prior restraint on speech and flout the First Amendment rights of our pro-life clients.”
Upon finding out that Planned Parenthood, America’s largest abortion provider, would be moving into a former OB-GYN’s office, local pro-life activists mobilized to begin a peaceful prayer campaign on the public sidewalk in front of the building. On Friday, March 28, 2014, Karen Perry walked along the public sidewalk, alone, holding a sign opposing the new facility. She was approached by three police officers who told her that if she did not obtain an event permit she would be placed under arrest. But that same afternoon, when Karen tried to obtain this alleged permit the police could not figure out what type of permit she should apply for. In the end Karen was told to write a letter to the police each and every time she or anyone else in her group planned to pray or picket in front of the facility. She was then told the Police Chief was not in that day and she should come back Monday to see him personally.
The next day, Saturday, March 29, 2014, a group of about 15 adults and 10 children gathered in front of the proposed abortion facility. Police immediately approached the group and again informed them that if they did not obtain a permit they would be placed under arrest.
“The City of Kissimmee must respect the rights of pro-life individuals to engage in lawful public protest,” said Rick Nelson of the American Liberties Institute, based in Orlando, Florida. “We hope the city will agree that the policy they have stated is unconstitutional and they will stop demanding our clients obtain a permit or otherwise get police permission prior to exercising their First Amendment rights.”
“We are deeply saddened that Planned Parenthood, America’s largest abortion provider, is coming to Kissimmee,” said Karen Perry, a pro-life activist who was threatened with arrest. “We will be gathering regularly to peacefully pray in front of this clinic to emphasize to the community the tragedy of abortion.”
The pro-life activists plan to continue with their scheduled prayer vigil tomorrow (Saturday, April 5), set to begin at 9 a.m. in front of the future Planned Parenthood site.
Thomas More Society and the American Liberties Institute have stated that they will take the matter to federal court if Kissimmee fails to respect the pro-lifers’ fundamental First Amendment rights.
Read the Thomas More Society letter to the City of Kissimmee, here. [http://www.scribd.com/doc/216386606/Letter-Re-Pro-Life-Protesters-From-Thomas-More-Society-and-American-Liberties-Institute]
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