|Christine Dhanagom||Thu Mar 08 18:46 EST||Abortion|
JACKSON, March 8, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) - Two pro-life advocates who were arrested and held in jail for over eight hours while peacefully demonstrating outside a high school in Mississippi say they were told by police that they were detained simply because they were talking about abortion.
The two women, Kristina Garza and Brianna Baxter, were demonstrating peacefully Monday afternoon outside Murrah High School in Jackson, Mississippi. Members of the Survivors of the Abortion Holocaust Campus Life Team, they were attempting to educate students about abortion using pro-life literature and graphic signs that depict aborted babies at various gestational stages, beginning at nine weeks.
The group, which is composed of seven members including Baxter and Garza, was confronted by campus police officers and told they couldn’t stand on the sidewalk outside the school.
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Garza told LifeSiteNews that the group was given inconsistent information by different officers. While some asserted that the sidewalk belonged to the school, others did not want to say that the pro-life activists were actually breaking the law.
“We could not get a straight story whatsoever,” she said. “It was obvious it was a public sidewalk. There was a fire hydrant. There were city sewers.”
Students were sequestered into the school and apparently prohibited from talking to the pro-lifers. As they walked by to board their bus, several students reportedly told the group that they could not speak with them because they were afraid of being suspended.
When Garza and her team members eventually left, they were told by police that if they came back, they would be arrested. “We asked him what law we would be breaking, and he said, ‘just don’t come back,’” she related.
An attorney contacted the school the following day to ask what law the pro-lifers would be breaking if they returned. School officials acknowledged that the sidewalk was public property, but reiterated, without citing any law, that the demonstrators could not return.
The group returned the following day to attempt to speak with the students who they couldn’t reach the day before, but found school officials and police officers waiting for them on the sidewalk.
According to Garza, five officers surrounded Baxter and attempted to pick her up and move her to the other side of the street. They then grabbed pro-life literature out of her hand, and cuffed her, reportedly without reading her rights or telling her why she was being arrested.
Garza was also handcuffed and taken to a police car. She says she repeatedly asked why she was being arrested, but received no answer.
The two women were taken to a holding cell at the Hinds County jail, where they waited about eight hours before being booked. The pair says that during that time they were not told why they were being held. They were eventually charged with interfering with a bus driver, trespassing, and causing a disturbance.
Garza says that while none of the charges make any sense, the first one is particularly puzzling.
“We had no interactions with any bus drivers,” she said. “We were on the sidewalks. We were not standing in front of buses. We were not blocking buses from passing. We were not standing in front of the entrance of buses. Students were walking on the buses freely.”
The real reason they were arrested, she says, was explained by police officers at the women’s jail they were transferred to later that night. The officers at the second jail had not been involved in the arrest, and were confused as to why the booking process had been delayed.
When Garza and Baxter explained that they were pro-life demonstrators, they were told, she says, that “you don’t talk about abortion in Mississippi,” and that this was the reason they had been arrested.
Garza says that this was the “overwhelming reaction” both from the officers at the jail and from the booking officers: they were arrested because they were talking about abortion.
But the pair says that the silver lining is that that their arrest galvanized the pro-life movement.
“People from all over the nation were calling to find out where we were and to try and get us out,” relates Garza. A legal team worked through the night to obtain a court date for the following day. After appearing before a judge yesterday afternoon, they were released and given a hearing date of April 6th.
Undaunted, the team proceeded to Alabama today, continuing to educate college and high school students about the harsh reality of abortion.
High school students, says Garza, are being “marketed for abortions,” and so have the right to know what it means.
“Planned Parenthood has already been in their schools since they were in junior high. For them to see the images is absolutely necessary. They need to know what an abortion is. They’re hearing about it from one side, they need to hear the truth as well,” she said.
Father Frank Pavone, National Director of Priests for Life, denounced the arrests, saying: “Those who are persecuting these brave young pro-life activists are cowards, and a good example of what is wrong in our culture today.
“I consider the Survivors to be a movement within the pro-life movement, inspiring all of us to give ourselves more generously for the unborn. Sometimes that means arrest and prison, not for doing wrong, but for standing up against wrongdoing.”