Bel Air, MD – Eighteen pro-lifers participating in the Maryland Face the Truth Tour were arrested without warning by Harford County State Troopers in the city of Bel Air, Maryland on Friday, August 1, 2008.
It was during the last tour stop of the week-long event, sponsored by Defend Life. when a State Trooper named Bradley approached the group and told them to move and put away their signs or they would be arrested. In an effort to comply, group leader Jack Ames gathered the group and moved down the road, into the city limits of Bel Air, Maryland.
The group stood peacefully on public property and did not “march” into the street as one news organization erroneously reported. Without warning, an estimated twenty patrol cars arrived on the scene and began arresting pro-life participants without a word. Those arrested were not told what they were being charged with, nor were they read their rights.
One of the women who participated in the tour overheard a police radio conversation where an unknown person told the troopers to make the arrests and that they would “figure out later” what charges would be filed.
At least two people suffered medical problems after having to sit for over a half hour with metal handcuffs that were too tight.
Two minors in the group were soon released, but the adults were held overnight. The men and women were held in two separate cells, but could hear each other. They passed the hours joining together in singing Christian hymns. The last of the pro-lifers were released on Saturday, August 2, at about 10:45 AM.
The group was eventually charged with loitering, failure to obey a lawful order, and disorderly conduct.
“There was some question about whether or not the group had a ‘demonstration permit.’ Are law enforcement officers now imitating the oppressive tactics that are used in Beijing or Tehran? The First Amendment of the Constitution is demonstration permit enough,” said Operation Rescue President Troy Newman, who had participated in the Maryland tour earlier in the week. “This is an open and shut case of officers who ran amok, and trampled upon the constitutional rights of their victims. Harford County can expect to have to answer for these civil rights violations in court.”