Lake Zurich to protesters: Meet with cops

 
 
Posted7/24/2010 12:01 AM

Lake Zurich officials have told an abortion opponents group that due to problems during a recent protest, it will not be allowed to demonstrate in town unless organizers first meet with police.

Police Chief Patrick Finlon sent a letter to the Pro-Life Action League outlining the new requirement, which stemmed from a July 15 demonstration that he said disrupted traffic at routes 12 and 22.

 

Finlon said the large group assembled at the intersection and disrupted traffic flow by frequently entering the roadway to engage motorists.

"It's clear to me their intent was to have a demonstration that was designed to disrupt traffic," he said. "Which makes it a public safety issue for me. It has nothing to do with the message they are trying to transmit."

Pro-Life Action League officials said they were not disruptive or intentionally stopping traffic. They admitted that participants walked into the roadway to hand out fliers, but only if police officers on the scene allowed them to do so.

"Fliers are only handed to motorists where and when allowed," said Pro-Life Action League National Director Joseph Scheidler, who was at the demonstration. "Our intention is never to disrupt traffic."

In his July 16 letter to the group, Finlon said protesters were told repeatedly to stay off the roadway.

The group also distributed fliers to cars in privately owned parking lots - which was not allowed - and got into an argument with a business owner who did not want them on his property, Finlon said.

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More than 100 people attended the demonstration, and every police officer in Lake Zurich had to be called to the scene to ensure safety, he said.

"Had we known the number they would have had, we would have asked for more police officers to work overtime," Finlon said. "With that many signs and people, it becomes extremely distracting to drivers in that intersection."

In the letter, Finlon told Scheidler that under Illinois law, the group must seek police permission to hold future demonstrations and supply police in writing the maximum number of people protesting, the names and addresses of organizers, the route and location of each protest in Lake Zurich and the time the protest will take place.

In the past, Pro-Life Action League would send a letter to police in advance of demonstrations, but no official meetings were required.

Scheidler said his organization has a good working relationship with Lake Zurich police.

"We still have some rights left, and one of them is to stand on public property and show signs of what abortion is," he said. "Our people who protest are very well trained and know what they can and can't do. We tell our members to be behaved, and that's what they were."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

He admitted fliers were placed on vehicle windshields at nearby businesses, but added they have done so in the past with no complaints. He also said he did not hear of any confrontations with business owners.

"It was not the intent of our group to disrupt traffic. We are there to show our pictures," he said. "I don't think we disrupted traffic. But I think they think we disrupted traffic."

Finlon pointed to a statement by protester Dan Gura on the group's website that stated: "This Thursday, let's give motorists a traffic jam of Biblical proportions. Remember, the more they're delayed, the longer they have to see our signs."

Finlon said that proves a more aggressive agenda.

But Gura said the statement was just to fire up the troops and get more people involved.

"Creating a traffic jam of biblical proportions is an impossible feat and could not be taken seriously," he said. "It was motivational speaking. A speech used to fire people up in the spirit of Knute Rockne."