I was in Indianapolis visiting family on Monday. Having learned that there is a Planned Parenthood just two miles from where my brothers live, I decided I would go for an hour or so on Monday morning to pray and offer help to women going in. That's what I do. It was a huge blessing that my brother volunteered to come with me.
The clinic is on private property - in a strip mall between Plato's Closet and a hair cutting place. I knew that the business managers have the right to ask me to not stand in front of their shops, but didn't anticipate any problems. We were just going to stand there peacefully with brochures and a "Pray to End Abortion" sign from 40 Days for Life. No problem, right? Certainly nothing that would require a police response, right?
After praying with my brother for just a few minutes, I was able to talk to one young woman leaving the Planned Parenthood. She said she came to get her birth control taken out, but couldn't get it done because her insurance was screwed up. I gave her an informational packet about other options, though nothing was specific to Indianapolis. I also told her to look up Federally Qualified Health Clinics, because they are better and aren't under congressional investigation.
She thanked me and left.
Then a Planned Parenthood employee came and rushed around us to the door. She refused to talk to me when I asked her how she was doing. She said, "I'm not getting into this right now!" And then repeated herself as she rushed inside. She glowered at me and my brother as we stood there in button-down shirts with a Bible in hand.
Less than ten minutes later, two police cruisers came around the building with their lights on.
The police officers were not happy. The two officers got out of their cars, came right up to us, and told us that we had to leave.
"You've been asked to leave." Officer Pritchett told me. [He never introduced himself, I got his name from his badge.]
"That's not true, Officer Pritchett," I replied, "no one has asked us to leave."
I introduced myself. I described my goal for being there. I tried my best to be very cordial, polite, and respectful. I did this for the whole morning - they didn't leave us alone and prevented me from praying with my brother any further.
"Well why don't you stand over there in the parking lot and hand out brochures, don't talk to anyone, and be safe?" the second officer, Officer Beasley, asked. "That's what they do at the Hanna location." [This is another Planned Parenthood location in Indianapolis. I've never been there.]
That's not the requirement, and so I'm not going to go stand out there completely unable to reach anyone. Seeing that I wasn't going to just roll over and give up my right to pray and speak, Officer Pritchett went inside to talk to the Planned Parenthood employees.
In the meantime I tried to make small-talk with the other officer. I mentioned to Officer Beasley that I know some other Beasleys. "Not my Beasleys." he responded tersely. That was it for small-talk.
Then Pritchett brought a Planned Parenthood employee out to talk to me. I introduced myself, and shook hands with her. She told me she would appreciate it if I didn't stand in front of her door. I said that'd be fine, and asked her if I was currently in front of her door (I wasn't). She began to answer when Officer Pritchett interrupted, "Thank you, ma'am, that's all. We'll handle it from here." and ushered her back inside. I didn't even get to tell her about And Then There Were None.
Pritchett smirked as he came up to me and said everything was all sorted. I agreed, and said I'd be happy to comply with her request. He wanted to know when I was going into the parking lot, and I informed him that wasn't going to happen. I had every right to stand in front of the other businesses until I was asked to leave by the property owner.
He said that he would move me. "The property owner has given us authority to move you." he said. This is not true, and I assured him that, if he did, I would bring a legal action against him for violating my rights.
Officer Beasley then suggested that they could get a restraining order, if Planned Parenthood would ask for one. I think I may have laughed aloud at that suggestion before I could contain myself. They didn't continue with that idea any further.
"Well you can't walk up to anyone." Pritchett said.
"Really? Is there a statute which says that?" I asked.
"Yes." He answered.
"What's the number of that statute?" I asked.
"I don't have to tell you." He said.
"Well, I hope you'll look it up on your own time." I suggested.
Seeing that I would not be budged just because they threatened me, Officer Pritchett decided to "move on to Plan B" and walked back inside the Planned Parenthood.
While Pritchett was inside, Beasley brought up harassment. I assured him that he would not observe any harassment from me. At this point he said, "I'm not going to stand here and argue with you. I know you're a lawyer and have all the answers."
"That's odd," I wondered, "who told him that I was a lawyer? I haven't mentioned anything."
Later my brother informed me that the officer was being heavily sarcastic.
Pritchett took a long time inside, and finally came out to tell me that the property owner had been called and was on his way. "He's going to 'trespass you' off of the property." Pritchett said menacingly. I'm confident that the officer was lying outright. The property owner is probably a company and may not even reside in Indiana. While it was highly unlikely that the property owner had even been called, it didn't matter. I told all the officers repeatedly that I wasn't going to be there for more than an hour, and so would be gone before the property owner came anyways.
Pritchett interrogated me and my brother, with an obvious intention of catching us in some legal violation. He seemed upset that my brother wasn't in violation of the requirement to change your license after living in Indiana for a certain amount of time.
During this interrogation, a woman walked into Planned Parenthood. Officer Pritchett was between me and her, but I was able to ask her if there was anything we could help her with. She said she was just there for birth control, and I informed her that there were other places to go - including Federally Qualified Health Centers which aren't under congressional investigation. She muttered something going in which I couldn't hear as I wished her a good day.
"Did you hear what she said?" I asked my brother.
"She said 'I'm sorry you're ignorant.'" He told me, loud enough that the officers heard.
I nodded. That's not the worst I've heard. I wouldn't mention it at all except for how Officer Beasley responded.
"You're ignorant. That's what she said." He piped up, gleefully.
"Yes, officer. I heard." I responded.
"Just wanted to make sure you did." Officer Beasley continued with a smirk.
I don't know what upset him so much. I'm glad I don't know his Beasleys after all.
A man walked into Plato's Closet as Officer Pritchett checked my car's tags and VIN. "What are they doing to your car?" He asked, clearly not a fan of police enforcement. "Just looking at it." I answered. What they hoped to learn, I couldn't guess. The man then went on to tell me that I shouldn't be opposed to abortion since I'm a man, and there are more women in the world than men.
That logic would justify every oppression of a minority group ever. He didn't come over to discuss the idea further, but went inside the store.
Officer Beasley laughed in support of this asinine comment. It wasn't the first or last time he would openly laugh at me during the morning. It was interesting that someone obviously opposed to police work would become their friend so quickly just because he was also opposed to me.
A third police car came up at this point - the officer did nothing other than stand there and chat with Officer Beasley, so I never learned his name. "Next is the 'Paddy-wagon'." Officer Beasley said threateningly as he walked over to meet this third officer. This casual threat of arrest without charge is consistent with their demeanor the whole morning.
At this point I was out of time. I had to get my brother to work, so we headed to my car to leave. Officer Beasley was surprised that we were going. "What, you're just leaving?" He asked, disappointedly. "I told you I wasn't staying for more than an hour." I answered. "Have a safe day, officers."
Then I said goodbye to Officer Pritchett, wishing him a safe day as well. At this time the man from Plato's Closet came out, and wanted to talk with me further. He said that abortion should be a woman's right because while the child is in the womb, it is the "woman's property." I insisted that human beings are never property, and that every man should stand up
to defend them. He agreed that abortion was wrong except for cases of rape and incest, but wouldn't stand up to stop them. He just wanted to let women do whatever they want.
"You are a valuable person made in the image of God." I assured him, "And as a man, I hope that you will stand up and defend innocent human beings who are being killed by abortion." He didn't appear to care, but I wished him well as we parted ways. It was a brief, but interesting conversation. It's not the first time that someone has told me that pre-born children are nothing more than property.
The three officers stood by their cruisers as I pulled away. They were making sure that I really left.
Here are a few things I want to say about the police behavior that day:
First, it was clear that the police expected us to leave immediately. They didn't expect any resistance to their illegal demands, and intimidating presence.
And to be honest, it was intimidating. Defying two officers of the law who are wearing guns and badges is intense. My brother said, "I don't want to get arrested," and his hands went cold. My leg was shaking the whole time I was trying to politely assert my rights.
I think that the officers were surprised at my firm stance. I believe that they reacted with emotionally-charged snark, sarcasm, insults, and condescension because of their surprise and disappointment. They may even have been frustrated because they felt this was a waste of their time.
They were answering a call from a business, and in that, they were doing their jobs. However, they took everything beyond their job requirement as they let their own irritation and impatience show.
Instead of protecting unpopular speech, these officers tried to squelch it. They were willing to violate my rights in order to maintain a quiet status quo.
They used intimidation to do it.
The worst thing is, these tactics usually work! Just look at how they characterized the "Hanna location," where the pro-life advocates are relegated to the outskirts of the parking lot and don't say anything to anyone. It's outrageous that these public servants have been using intimidation to silence pro-life groups. It is a gross violation of their duty.
Why do the police do this? I would guess that, as I said above, they just want everything to be quiet. They want to have "peace," and are willing to silence people to have it.
Silence, however, is not the same thing as peace. Silence in the face of homicide is not "peace." Just because the pro-lifers aren't in front of Planned Parenthood with signs and brochures doesn't mean that peace is present.
"[T]he greatest destroyer of peace today is abortion." - Mother Theresa
Abortion destroys peace. These law enforcement officers are making sure that this destruction continues in silence.
I hope that more people will be willing to face down intimidating police tactics designed to silence them. While I have an advantage, having a legal education, I know that anyone can do what I did. Be brave. Don't sit silently by while abortion continues. Be reasonable, don't get arrested, but make sure that the law is upheld. Remember that the Constitution applies to you, and you can speak.