Published On: Mon, Apr 18th, 2016

Thomas More Society defends Eric Scheidler after Planned Parenthood protest ended with unlawful arrest

National public interest attorneys with the Thomas More Society filed a federal civil rights lawsuit Wednesday, April 13, on behalf of pro-life leader Eric Scheidler against Chicago’s Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority, which operates Navy Pier, the city’s premier recreational and tourist attraction on its famous lakefront.  The suit, which also names the Pier’s security director and a Chicago police officer, alleges that in April 2015, Scheidler, Executive Director of the Pro-Life Action League, was arrested by Chicago police for criminal trespassing based on reports that were contrived and fabricated by Navy Pier staff.

Scheidler had been granted explicit permission to access the pier by those who later accused him and was found not guilty after a hotly contested criminal trial.  During the trial, the Society also argued that Navy Pier personnel had hidden or destroyed crucial evidence—a video camera he had been wearing on his belt at the time of arrest, whose recording was wrongfully confiscated by police and which, if properly disclosed and viewed, would have clearly precluded the arrest. 

photo courtesy March For Life Chicago

photo courtesy March For Life Chicago

Tom Brejcha, President and Chief Counsel for the Thomas More Society, stated, “This was a brazen and outrageous violation of Eric Scheidler’s personal liberties and civil rights. He was arrested, jailed, and had his belongings confiscated on charges that were patently false and fabricated.  Evidence proving his innocence of criminal trespass charges was maliciously destroyed, while those sworn to uphold the law either ignored or, worse, actually partook in the suppression of that evidence. We cannot permit this flagrant violation of a citizen’s civil rights to go unchallenged, lest others suffer similar wrongs on the part of those whom we entrust with the critical mission of keeping civil order in accordance with law.”

Scheidler had been leading a protest on public property outside Navy Pier to speak out against a Planned Parenthood fundraiser that was being held at the far end of the pier on the evening of his arrest.  Political motivations are suspected and may have prompted the baseless arrest and confiscation of Scheidler’s personal property—a suppression of evidence that more recent events have shown to be an all too common occurrence on the part of Chicago’s law enforcers.

The demonstration against Planned Parenthood’s fundraiser was entirely peaceable, orderly, and fully lawful. Neither the Chicago police nor Navy Pier security personnel interfered with the demonstration. Nor did Eric Scheidler, while on Navy Pier, make any effort to approach any Planned Parenthood officials or attendees at the abortion event, let alone threaten or harass them.  The Planned Parenthood event appeared to proceed without disruption, leaving only Eric Scheidler’s wrongful arrest to mar the peaceful and orderly character of the pro-life event.

Read the complaint filed April 13 against Navy Pier in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois Eastern Division here, along with the accompanying exhibits.


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