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Published On: Tue, Dec 2nd, 2014

Mississippi: Free speech battle rages on as pro-life claim harassment by Jackson police

Participants in the "March for life" walk along Concord Avenue in Knoxville, Tennessee,  photo Michael Stansberry via wikimedia commons

Participants in the “March for life” walk along Concord Avenue in Knoxville, Tennessee, photo Michael Stansberry via wikimedia commons

Life Legal Defense Foundation filed an appeal last week with the United States District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi Jackson Division, asking the court to overturn a judge’s denial of injunctive relief for pro-life advocates, protecting them from harassment by the City of Jackson, Mississippi Police Department.

In the case, revolving around a long and well documented history of police misconduct, Judge Carlton Reeves refused to prohibit the Jackson city police from further persecution of peaceful pro-life protestors. The injunction had been requested to protect the victims of harassment while awaiting a lawsuit on the matter, set to go trial next summer. 

“In denying Plaintiffs’ request for injunctive relief, the district court ignored the main issue of this case, which is whether or not free speech activity can constitute a legal obstruction on the public sidewalk,” stated attorney Allison Aranda, Senior Staff Counsel for Life Legal Defense Foundation.  “We look forward to a thorough review of Judge Reeves’ decision as well as the evidence that amply supported our request for an injunction to stop this police misconduct.”

According to the Life Legal Defense Foundation’s original filing, free speech activity on the public sidewalk has never been allowed to be considered loitering or deemed as some other infraction, but the Jackson police have repeatedly treated free speech as an obstruction rather than a Constitutionally protected action.

Life Legal Defense Foundation appealed Reeves’ denial of the original request, which asked the court to enjoin the City of Jackson and several specifically named police officers from:

  • Unlawfully applying, enforcing, or threatening to enforce the obstruction statute against the Plaintiffs,·         Unlawfully applying, enforcing, or threatening to enforce the disorderly conduct statute against the Plaintiffs
  • Unlawfully seizing and refusing to return Plaintiffs’ signs
  • Engaging in any act or practice that has the purpose or effect of unlawfully inhibiting the exercise of Plaintiffs’ first Amendment rights on the public sidewalks or rights of way, including the rights of any person associated and acting with Plaintiff Pro-Life Mississippi in its First Amendment activities on the public sidewalks or rights of way
  • Enforcing the laws, statutes, or ordinances in a manner that is not even-handed
  • Favoring or disfavoring any person or group because of his political, religious or philosophical positions on any issue.

The police misconduct testified to in court was directed at pro-life sidewalk counselors outside the Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the last remaining abortion facility in Mississippi. Multiple witnesses attested to, and provided documentation of years of threats, harassment, unwarranted citations and arrests of pro-life advocates by Jackson law enforcement officers. 

Read the appeal document filed by Life Legal Defense Foundation in United States District Court HERE.

Read the original Life Legal Defense Foundation court filing in United States District Court HERE.

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About the Author

- Writer and Co-Founder of The Global Dispatch, Brandon has been covering news, offering commentary for years, beginning professionally in 2003 on Crazed Fanboy before expanding into other blogs and sites. Appearing on several radio shows, Brandon has hosted Dispatch Radio, written his first novel (The Rise of the Templar) and completed the three years Global University program in Ministerial Studies to be a pastor. To Contact Brandon email [email protected] ATTN: BRANDON

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