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Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Pro-Life Protesters Win Court Settlement

This will make you smile. Two thumbs up for Defend Life and all the folks unjustly arrested. 



RELEASE: March 7, 2012
CONTACT: Fran Griffin, 703-255-2211

BALTIMORE, MD -- The Maryland Board of Public Works, which includes Governor Martin O'Malley as one of its three members, announced today that it will grant a $385,000 settlement with nine individuals who were illegally arrested and jailed by Maryland State Police on August 1, 2008, in Bel Air, Maryland for displaying large pictures of aborted babies along Route 24.
This settlement must still be approved by the individual plaintiffs. After transfer of funds has been accomplished, a news conference with more details will be held in Baltimore.

The out-of-court settlement by the Maryland Police results from an annual week-long event held every year since 2001 by DEFEND LIFE, a regional pro-life organization, during which a few dozen pro-life activists stand along streets and highways in 15 cities exercising their First Amendment rights of free speech. While 18 were arrested, only nine individuals in addition to the organization, DEFEND LIFE, filed suit. Those arrested included five college students, a businessman, and a professional engineer.

Two of the most crucial parts of the out-of-court settlement are:

* The Maryland State Police cannot restrict speech, including speech employing images of aborted human babies, based on reactions of viewers or motorists to that speech.

* The Maryland State Police must agree to implement

a training program within 120 days of settlement that will
train its officials and employees on First and Fourth Amendment rights in a manner that is consistent with the District Court's opinion. The program must be reviewed by plaintiff's counsel before implementation.
DEFEND LIFE, a grass roots, Maryland-based all-volunteer pro-life activist organization, began sponsoring annual Face the Truth Tours in 2001. The purpose is to show the reality of abortion by displaying large pictures of pre-born and aborted babies along heavily trafficked highways during these annual summer tours. Each Truth Tour lasts five days with at least three stops each day. The next FACE THE TRUTH tour will be held from July 23-27, 2012.

About 50 of large signs are lined up at 100-foot intervals. With one minor exception, no arrests have ever occurred. (DEFEND LIFE has learned that plain-clothes Maryland State Police had conducted secret surveillance of the 2007 DEFEND LIFE Face the Truth Tour in Westminster, Maryland.)
From 2001 through 2009, the last stop on the last day was always in Harford County, Maryland. The final stop was at the intersection of Routes 24 and 924, just north of I-95. During that stop, there was absolutely no contact with the Maryland State Police.

Yet in 2008, Truth Tour participants were told during the tour by a Maryland State Trooper that unless they vacated the premises, they would be arrested. Knowing that they were fully within their rights, but not wanting to annoy the police, they proceeded a few miles north to Bel Air, as they believed that the Bel Air Police were in charge of that jurisdiction, not the Maryland State Police. Thus the tour regrouped on Route 24 in Bel Air and set up their signs. Within minutes without further warning, 18 were arrested by the Maryland State Police. Sixteen of the 18 were jailed overnight (two minors were released).

The rights of the demonstrators were violated in various ways including:

No reason was given for arrests. Phone calls were denied. A lawyer was denied access. Teenage girls were bra-searched.

On August 12, 2008, all charges were dropped in Harford County District Court against the 18 persons who had been arrested. Subsequently, lawsuits were filed by nine
individual plaintiffs plus DEFEND LIFE against Harford County, Bel Air, and the Maryland State Police. In 2010, a settlement was reached with Harford County.

In 2011, after dismissing Bel Air from the lawsuit, U. S.
District Judge Richard Bennett stated in a Summary Judgment that the Maryland State Police had violated the plaintiffs' First Amendment free speech rights and their Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable seizures.

He further stated that the sole purpose of a trial in this case would be to determine the amount of the judgments the plaintiffs would be awarded.


Upon learning of the approval by the Maryland Board of Public Works, Jack Ames, director and founder of DEFEND LIFE, who organized the 2008 Face the Truth Tour, made this statement:

"Thanks be to God! The good news is that the First Amendment still lives in Maryland. Our Founding Fathers who so wisely enshrined the right of free speech into our Constitution would be extremely pleased.

This historic decision should embolden pro-life all across America to continue to take to the streets, exposing the reality of pre-born child killing until the day comes that abortion is not only illegal in American, but also unthinkable!"
Ames said. clips of the Maryland Police warning and actual arrests can be seen at
(or search "Defend Life Harford County").

To schedule an interview with one of the plaintiffs, or to get more information, contact Fran Griffin of Griffin Communications at 703-255-2211.

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