Friday, February 13, 2009

Nine Pro-life Youth Jailed in Birmingham Following Arrests on Public Sidewalk

BIRMINGHAM, Alabama, Feb. 12 /Christian Newswire/ -- Nine college-age members of the Survivors Campus Life Tour were arrested on a public sidewalk at Parker High School in Birmingham, Alabama, while distributing literature to students at the campus today.

This afternoon, the group of pro-life youth activists quietly held signs, distributed literature and peacefully dialogued with students on the public sidewalk. After being threatened with arrest if they did not leave the area, the group contacted their attorney, who then assured them that their location on the public sidewalk and their free speech activity was legal according to local and state laws. After the Campus Life Tour team members finished handing out literature to passing students and were in the process of loading their van to leave the school area, the police then handcuffed and arrested all nine Survivors without warning. One of the team members who did not assist in the distribution of literature was also arrested and handcuffed so tightly that it caused her to cry in pain.

Kortney Blythe, Director of Survivors Campus Life Tours, repeatedly asked Officer Cooley, one of the arresting officers, the reason for the arrests. He kept assuring the team that they were not arrested, they were only being detained, and he did not know what the charges were. The entire group was never informed of the reason for their arrest as they were being handcuffed, and one of the officers was heard to question his superiors, "What are we arresting them for again?" The police confiscated the team's video cameras and personal belongings, and impounded and searched the Campus Life Tour van. The police also asked the team members where they were staying so they could conduct a search in their hotel as well.

They are now being held in Birmingham City Jail, the jail from which Martin Luther King, Jr. issued his famous letter condemning apathy and injustice. All nine members of the Campus Life Tour team have "willingly [gone] to jail for their conscience' sake" in the same city where Dr. King was jailed for his convictions. In January, the Campus Life Tour participated in the Birmingham Letter Project in Washington, DC, a series of events dedicated to speaking against the injustice of abortion in the spirit of Dr. King. They now find themselves jailed for First Amendment activity in Birmingham, demonstrating that prejudice is alive and well in America, particularly when advocating for the civil rights of the pre-born.

The group is scheduled for an early Friday morning hearing, and have been informed the pending charge is "criminal trespass".

"I am in shock and disbelief that a person can be arrested for simply standing on a public sidewalk and handing out literature. If there is any principle that is so deeply rooted in this nation's history it is the right of free speech, and it is shameful that those charged with upholding the law are in fact the ones that violated the Highest Law of the land today.

Regrettably, nine innocent young people are sitting in jail for peacefully exercising their constitutional rights, the very jail that imprisoned Martin Luther King for doing the exact same thing. We will fight to defend these brave young people. We will not give in to the tyranny of men, in this case officers, who have placed themselves above the law. We look forward to our day in court." -- Allison Aranda, Staff Counsel for Life Legal Defense

"The police officers of Birmingham have demonstrated a total disregard for both local laws and the Constitution. It is ironic that young people participating in a project named after Dr. King's letter sit in the very jail he penned it from. Ironic and sad. Those are some great young people and I am proud of them as they stand against today's civil rights abuses, unwilling to be silenced as a voice for the pre- born. Throughout their entire ordeal, these youths' first and foremost concern was to draw attention to the ultimate civil rights abuse - the murder of pre-born children." -- Rev. Jeff White, Founder of Survivors

"A generation ago, young civil rights workers were thrown in Birmingham Jail as they stood to speak out against the injustice of segregation. Today young pro- life activists are walking the same paths of justice as they are jailed in Birmingham for speaking out against the violence and injustice of abortion. As civil rights workers a generation ago sacrificed, were brutalized, attacked by dogs and yet prevailed by ending the bigotry of segregation, so these heroic young pro-life activists are taking a sacrificial stand to see that the tragedy of abortion comes to an end. As they sit in that jail cell we pray the church is challenged to rise out of their indifference and stand for the innocent children across the nation." -- Rev. Patrick Mahoney, Christian Defense Coalition and Sponsor of the Birmingham Letter Project

"What an ironic situation. The actions by the Birmingham Police Department are not only deplorable and shameful but are in direct conflict with the spirit and passion of Dr.Martin Luther King, Jr., who stated that "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere". These young people who have correctly included unborn children as persons deserving of civil rights should be commended, not condemned." -- Fr. Terry Gensemer, Rector of the Church of the Reconciler Charismatic Episcopal Church, Fairfield, Alabama.

Campus Life Tour is a pro-life campus outreach project of Survivors. The team of college-age youth travel throughout the United States with educational displays designed to introduce the abortion debate to high school and college campuses. For more information about Survivors, visit