'Constitution 101' classes required after police illegally arrested and strip-searched pro-life advocates
Contact: Tom Ciesielka, 312-422-1333, [email protected]
BALTIMORE, March 8, 2012 /Standard Newswire/ -- The Maryland Board of Public Works voted yesterday to approve the settlement of consolidated lawsuits against Maryland State Police who illegally arrested and strip-searched pro-life activists while they peacefully protested on public property in Hartford County in August, 2008. As part of the settlement agreement, Maryland State Police must attend training classes on citizens' rights as protected by the First and Fourth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution. The settlement also requires the State to pay for the pro-life advocates' legal fees.
"While we applaud the settlement, we remain appalled by the illegal behavior of the Maryland State Police. We sincerely believe that with a better understanding of the First Amendment and a newfound respect for citizen protests, the Maryland State Police will strive hereafter to protect all the rights bestowed on individuals by the U.S. Constitution," said Thomas Brejcha, president and chief counsel of the Chicago-based Thomas More Society.
Thomas More Society, together with American Catholic Lawyers Association and the Alliance Defense Fund, brought multiple lawsuits against state and local police on behalf of Jack Ames, the leader of Defend Life, and the group's "2008 Truth Tour" participants after the pro-lifers were arrested with no charges stated. The group included young women who were subjected to sexually invasive searches by police while detained. After hours of mistreatment and several overnight detentions, the pro-lifers were released. Trumped up criminal charges such as not having a permit when permits were not legally required were abruptly dropped when the pro-lifers first appeared in court, after which suits were filed charging a gross violation of the protesters' First Amendment rights.
Prior to filing their lawsuit, Thomas More Society attorneys uncovered compelling evidence of bad faith against the police officers, including 911 tapes and police recordings showing that officials imposed a "heckler's veto" in making the arrests because they objected to the content of protest signs, and showing deep police bias such as Sergeant Bohlen's comment: "they can sit in a cell for an hour ... or three or four and rot."
About the Thomas More Society
Founded in 1997, the Chicago-based Thomas More Society is a national public interest law firm that seeks to restore respect in law for life, marriage, and religious liberty. The Society is a nonprofit organization wholly supported by private donations. For more information or to support the work of Thomas More Society, please visit www.thomasmoresociety.org.