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Thursday, November 29, 2007

Truck adorned with pics of aborted babies lands man in jail

This Associated Press story comes from Buford, Georgia, where the Mall of Georgia is located (one of the best-designed shopping malls that I've ever been too)...
Man arrested for truck showing images of aborted fetuses near Atlanta area mall

The Associated Press

BUFORD, Ga. -- Police have arrested a Missouri man for driving near the Mall of Georgia with a truck that showed large, graphic photos of aborted fetuses.

Gwinnett County police arrested Robert Roethlisberger Jr., 44, for disorderly conduct Friday. He was released from jail Monday on $1,200 bond.

Police went to the area after a caller reported seeing a panel truck displaying "bloody" and "gory" images. The truck had two large banners on each side and a banner on the rear of the truck, police said.

The images on the banners included the headless and bloody torso of an aborted fetus and the partially crushed head of an aborted fetus being held in forceps, police said.

An officer told Roethlisberger the banners were being displayed in an area full of shoppers and children. He was arrested after refusing to display less graphic banners instead, police said.

Police also impounded the truck and removed the banners from it. The truck was released from impound Monday, but the banners are being kept as evidence, Gwinnett County police Cpl. Illana Spellman said.

Roethlisberger is a driver for Operation Rescue, an anti-abortion group.

The group called Roethlisberger's arrest "an egregious abuse of power."

Operation Rescue's president, Troy Newman, said the arrest was unconstitutional because the truck's display was protected under the First Amendment.

"We intend to vigorously fight these unjust charges and will seek a remedy for our property loss," Newman said. "We cannot allow the illegal use of police authority to bully us into silence."

I believe abortion is wrong... but this is not the right way to fight it. In fact, a stunt like this is perhaps more likely to galvanize indifference toward abortion as it is to impassion people to be against it.

And after watching the Operation Rescue people in action over the years, I have to wonder if they are doing things like this out of sincere concern for abortion. It could be just as likely that they do stunts like this because they want to be arrested. Because that gives them grounds to claim persecution. If they can project the notion that they are persecuted, then that - in their minds anyway - bestows upon them the status of being "legitimate". Legitimacy brings with it the quality of purpose. Take away the supposed rationale for persecution, and the assumed purpose likewise vanishes.

You see, I also have to wonder if people like the Operation Rescue folks are not secretly grateful that there is abortion: because it gives them something that they can use to assume importance and affluence.

All too often in affairs of human nature, there comes a point when the fight is no longer about a real cause, and it becomes a fight for sake of the fight itself. That's the surest sign of purpose gone astray. And there are also plenty of unscrupulous people out there who don't think twice about exploiting others' misplaced passion. It already happened a long time ago with the civil rights movement. It's also happened with the anti-abortion and "pro-family" movements, too.

In any case, the police were right to stop this guy. Mall of Georgia, especially at this time of year, is packed with families and small children. This sort of display is completely inappropriate for that kind of public venue.

EDIT 7:41 a.m. EST: If you can stomach it, here's a picture of Operation Rescue's "Truth Truck". This is something much larger than I had imagined it would be... and I'm downright horrified that something like that was driving around the Mall of Georgia on the day after Thanksgiving! Click if you must, but be warned: it's rather gruesome.


Anonymous said...

This is a clear case of abuse of polic power. The victim of the abuse had no right to be on the Mall property, but if he refused to leave he should have faced tresspassing charges.

Where do we draw the line on free speech? The answer is we don't. Everyone has a right free speech or no one does.

The police should face prosecution for abusing this man's civil liberties. The police behavior is what's really disgusting about this incident. It's facism at it finest.

For the record, I believe a woman has a right to decide. I don't believe the state has the right to decide or to trample the First Amendment.

Chris Knight said...

According to this argument, a flasher would have the right to expose his privates in the middle of the Mall of Georgia and this would be protected free speech. Although to be fair, the Operation Rescue people may (or may not) be expressing a legitimate opinion and the flasher would only be acting as a pervert.

For the record, I've been on the receiving end of police abuse myself. As an infringement on the freedom of the press, believe it or not. So I know that this IS a problem and I knwo what it's like to have experienced it.

I still see it as a matter of public decency: families out with small children, on the busiest shopping day of the year, at one of the busiest malls in the country, do NOT want to see pictures of aborted babies... and I say that even believing that this is something that people *should* be confronted with the reality of. But there is a proper time for everything and this was not it.

Anonymous said...

Inappropriate? Yes, but not criminal.

Poor taste? Yes, but the First Amendment was not created to protect people who say warm and fuzzy things that everyone likes.

No court would ever rule a banner showing aborted fetuses is obsence. You can't expose your privates or cry "fire" in a crowded theater or tell malicious lies about someone, but this ain't the case here. The cops didn't like something, so they pounched on it to suit their personal tastes.