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Sunday, May 17, 2009

Is Free Speech Dead in South Bend?

I just spoke by phone with a friend, Sonny Torres, who went to Notre Dame this weekend with his wife Karen to protest the university giving Obama an honorary degree and a platform for promoting his policies which include murdering unborn children. Neither of my friends had any intention of getting arrested, but the Lord apparently had other plans.

After six hours of joining in the protests off campus, Karen and Sonny left to begin their long ride back to Virginia. But they got turned around and pulled into the parking lot of a credit union bordering the university campus to get their bearings. As they did, they noticed a group of police cars gathering and officers putting up barricades which appeared to mark the route of the Obama motorcade. So Karen and Sonny got out and Karen pulled out her sign, a half posterboard sheet, that read, "Shame on Notre Dame!"

A few minutes later a police officer came over and told them they'd have to move back 50 feet from the road which they did even though several others were standing closer. As they walked back with the officer, they objected to being singled out and asked why those walking on the sidewalk weren't being moved back. The officer spoke into his phone and a minute later they were surrounded by cops and Karen was summarily arrested, handcuffed, hauled off, and charged with criminal trespass.

In the meantime Sonny, still in the credit union parking lot, watched as a growing crowd gathered along the route, one person carrying a sign that read, "We're proud of Notre Dame" and another with a sign praising Notre Dame president, Fr. Jenkins. Sonny went over to the officer who spoke to them originally and asked why Karen was arrested and these people weren't. The officer claimed Karen "was belligerant" (if you dare to ask a question, you're "belligerant") and then threatened Sonny with arrest as well.

Sonny stayed in the parking lot another fifteen minutes or so and watched the officer sit in his car twenty feet from a group of about 80 people not 50 feet from the street, not ten feet, but actually sitting and standing on the curb practically in the street itself. Apparently none of those who came to worship at the feet of the abortion president was trespassing even though they gathered in the same place, even closer to the street, on ground forbidden to my friends because of Karen's sign, an unwelcome form of speech.

After talking to Sonny, I called the jail and spoke to Deputy Vawastowski (Is she a polish Catholic?) who told me Karen was charged with criminal trespass and her bail was set at $250. She could not give me the statute under which Karen had been charged and said she had no other information, but it would be on the arresting officer's charge sheet.

Now, let's recap this and make everything perfectly clear. Approximately 100 people ended up milling around in the same area as my friends, some much closer to the street within the forbidden 50 foot zone. But the only individual singled out for arrest FOR TRESPASSING was a woman holding a sign that said, "Shame on Notre Dame!" Those bearing signs of approval were unmolested. If this isn't a first amendment violation and a case of false arrest I don't know what is.

The Department of Homeland Security may have pulled their "right-wing extremist" report, but it's clear that pro-lifers are in the sites of law enforcement who will use any pretext to shut them up and make sure the abortion president won't be embarrassed by their signs. The deputies in this case acted like little brownshirts I'm sad to say. (My brother is a retired police officer and one of my heroes. It pains me when I have to criticize law enforcement officers who abuse their authority.)

I hope when you read this you're as angry as I am and will call the jail and protest the false arrest of my friend Karen Torres. The number at the South Bend jail is 574-245-6518. Ask them why they didn't arrest any of the other 50-100 people in the same area who were obviously trespassing as well if my friend was. If you call, please be polite, but express your concern that Karen's was singled out, a clear violation of her right to free speech.

15 comments:

Anonymous said...

I called the jail and a woman told me very definitely that she did not know why Karen had been arrested and not the others.....she said that she was not the arresting officer...I expressed my regrets at the discrimination and she said that Karen was getting ready to leave even as we spoke.
Just thought I'd let you know the results...

Anonymous said...

I sent this on to: Rush, Glenn, Michelle Malkin, and Michael Brown....and I posted it too....get Thomas More on this one???

Thank you....and please let them know that I am praying for them...FOR ALL OF US!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the info! I just called the jail and they said that Karen is released.

Anonymous said...

I just finished half way reading as I could not continue on at the moment (but will later) as I got so angry. My blood pressure is normal but I can tell you it rose.

Our local government(South Bend) in the area of Notre Dame is acting as if they worked for tyrants like Stalin, Hitler and also Castro. Where is freedom of expression?; where is freedom of religion?
All those people handcuffed and dragged away in South Bend in the name of defending their religious beliefs and to have it happen here in the United States. Furthermore, the clergy in charge of Notre Dame policy should be excommunicated and sent to do penance for the rest of their lives working in hard labor for their grievous sins.. I am just watching Hannity and he is expressing his opinion of this situation very well.

Thanks for reading my tirade. Notre Dame is the devil's workshop - and to have the name of Our Lady as it's name is a sacrilege.

Anonymous said...

I called the South Bend jail.the corrections officer who answered was very defensive and said that he couldn't speak for the arresting police. I asked him if there was anyone that I could write to and he said that I could write to the city of South Bend. That might be a good second step.

Anonymous said...

Just called. Had to call back three times to explain i felt they
violated the rights of Mrs Torres, He all but told me to shut up and
only wanted me to talk if I had a question and that her rights were in no way violated she was arrested committing a crime. When I let him know I did not agree, he hung up.

Anonymous said...

Life Legal Defense Foundation is also experienced and effective in dealing with this kind of abuse of police power.

Unknown said...

From your story, I gather that those arrested for trespass were on Notre Dame's property. It seems a matter of common sense that trespass pertains only to those present on another's property without at least implied permission. Presumably, Notre Dame did not mind having supporters on its property, and hence there was no trespass.

Now, it also sounds entirely possible that there was a court order preventing anti-Notre Dame protesters from coming within 50 feet of Notre Dame's property. This sort of court order is perfectly legitimate, just as if a court order were put down preventing a man from going within 50 feet of a woman he was stalking. Depending on the laws in Indiana, violation of it might very well be considered criminal trespass.

Don't get me wrong. I am disgusted by Notre Dame's entirely illegitimate invitation of the President Hussein to its campus. That said, we must not lump issues together just because we are upset or don't like someone. The police conduct hardly sounds like brownshirts. My father's family are German Jews, and the brownshirts used an entirely different sort of tactics. When the police start burning down people's churches then I'll call them brownshirts. For now, I will be content to say that our nation permits a great deal of wicked lawlessness, and we have a president who thinks that's fine, and some (oh, how many!) universities that care more about worldly honors than honoring the name of Christ. That's all bad enough.

Mary Ann Kreitzer said...

I spoke to Karen last night after she got out of jail. She said they were NOT on Notre Dame's property.

Anonymous said...

This is just TOO MUCh! I just read that Karen was released , so I didn’t make the call, but I’m SO angry after reading the Post this AM…the speech of Patricia McGuire and Dionne’s article….. If they are ashamed of us, catholics, why don’t they change religion???? The devil is laughing at all this and having a great time and the Rev. Jenkins with his wide smile, hugging the occupant of the White House appears to be in his glory….Has he sold his soul to the devil???? Sorry, but I’m really angry. God bless you!

mad hatter said...

I have been following this closely ever since it was announced that ND invited Mr. Obama to speak. I commend Mary Anne Glennden for excusing herslf from the event.

I run a crisis pregnancy center and I feel this is just the beginning of even more moves like the one at ND. They are trying to numb us Have you checked on Fr. Jenkins' bosses? They are all tied into Obama and the Chicago area where he is from. Always follow the money and you find the common ground. We have decided to make lemonaide out of these lemons. We launched a thing called www.mondayproject.org as a way for folks that won't donate again to ND and take that money and donate it to the front lines of the battle for Life (Crisis Pregnancy Centers) Please check out our site and spread it around if you agree that a positive always outweighs a negative and NOW is the time to not only identify yourself as Pro-Life, but to ACT like it.

royh

phil dunton said...

Yes, free speech is gone, at least for committed Catholics. I would like to remind everyone that we would not be in this horrible mess if the Bush Adminstration and the Republican controlled House and Senate had not been such a total disaster. The next few years are going to be very painful.

Catholics4America said...

I just called the number in the article and they said they are just the jail and gave me the number of the South Bend Police to call to inquire why Karen was arrested. Here it is 574-235-9201

Anonymous said...

I think I can give some insight into this from a family of more than 120 law enforcement officers, from FBI, DEA, SS, NYPD to LAPD. The arrival and visit of the president is very tense situation. I was in SB in 2005 when Bush visited. It was wall to wall cops for a 4 hour visit. If you see it from the cops POV, they are very busy, and tense and saw this person as potential threat/ problem and the tip off might have been her attitude. cops are given lots of discretion in these situations. I have been pulled over twice in the past 2 yrs, for minor traffic violations. Both times I got off with only a warning as I was very respectful and polite to the officers. This
particular department has a reputation of letting nobody off. I also want to say south Bend has some really beautiful churches. My favorite is Saint Adelbert, about 2-3 miles
s-sw from the airport. I think a more pleasing action to God would have been 200 people praying in that church 3 full rosaries. And then a peaceful procession to someplace like a cemetary to pray for aborted babies. Such a event would have shown God you are placing your trust in Him to come up with a solution. Getting arrested is solving nothing. It takes money from your family budget and adds much stress to life. It is setting a bad example for young children who see parents breaking the law.

Anonymous said...

Catholic protests can be a good thing, but unless you are led by a calm organizer, it can get ugly.
By that I mean, the other side will taunt you into an heated argument or who knows what.
Many times a group of Catholics assemble, and with signs in hand begin to either march or stand in front of some location. Often there is nothing planned.
The key is to plan everything in advance. Call the police and tell them how many protestors you have and when you will arrive and depart and that you will obey all laws. If you do that, the adversaries will find when they call the cops on you, the cops will know you already and you will be treated with respect.

If the cops have no idea who you are and what caused you to protest, you are already in a bad light.

Myself and a few catholics were once greatly outnumbered 40 to 6, in a protest, but the cops knew all the details we gave them. When it looked like we were in trouble of getting attacked, I called 911 and a swarm of 15 officers arrived. They told everyone who was opposing us they would be arrested unless they stood 30 feet away. From that day forward, not one person ever bothered us on future protests.