Two college-age members of the Survivors Campus Life Tour were arrested on a public sidewalk outside of Murrah High School in Jackson, Mississippi, while distributing literature to students in front of the campus Tuesday afternoon.
The group of pro-life youth activists first attempted to hold signs, distribute literature, and peacefully dialogue with students on the public sidewalk on Monday, March 5, 2012. Jackson School Police Officers immediately confronted the group and moved their signs across the street, sequestered students back inside the school grounds and ordered students not to take the literature being handed out or speak with the demonstrators. The police claimed that the sidewalk belonged to the school and that they had a right to remove the pro-life activists. At the same time, the Survivors observed that the very same sidewalk to which they were being denied access was being used by passersby and joggers.
The Campus Life Team conferred with Life Legal Attorney Allison Aranda and returned to the public sidewalk in front of Murrah High School on Tuesday, March 6, to educate the students who were denied access to the life-saving information that the Survivors hand out each day at campuses across the country. This time the police gave the activists an ultimatum, leave the sidewalk or go to jail. Kristina Garza and Brianna Baxter refused to be intimidated by the unlawful police order. They continued their peaceful free speech activity and were arrested at once.
Officers at the Raymond Detention Center delayed the booking process for over eight hours while Garza and Baxter sat in jail not knowing when they would be set free. The remaining activists who were not arrested continued to call through the night to find out when the jailed pro-lifers would be released, but the police just gave them the run around. LLDF attorneys learned early this morning that Garza and Baxter had been transferred to the Jackson Detention Center until they could be taken to Justice Court, but the gamesmanship continued. The clerk at the Justice Court told LLDF that the court hearings were scheduled for 3:00 p.m. but that the Garza and Baxter case was not on the docket for today.
At 10:00 a.m. local time, Garza and Baxter were brought in to court without an attorney present and told that their case was on calendar and was being heard that morning. The Survivors quickly contacted LLDF and aided their jailed teammates in representing themselves. It does not go unnoticed that the Jackson Police Department and Justice Courts have done nothing but give false information to the Survivors and their attorneys through the entire process. Law enforcement officers and officers of the court are charged with protecting our civil liberties, but in this case they are intentionally conspiring to subvert the legal process and deny these pro-life advocates their right to due process of law. Rest assured, everyone involved in the miscarriage of justice will be held accountable for their misdeeds.
“I am in shock and disbelief that a person can be arrested for simply standing on a public sidewalk and handing out literature. If there is any principle that is so deeply rooted in this nation’s history it is the right of free speech, and it is shameful that those charged with upholding the law are in fact the ones that violated the Highest Law of the land today. We will fight to defend these brave young people. We will not give in to the tyranny of men, in this case officers, who have placed themselves above the law. We look forward to our day in court,” states Allison K. Aranda, Staff Counsel for Life Legal Defense Foundation
“The Jackson Public School and Police Department have demonstrated a total disregard for both local laws and the Constitution. These are some great young people and I am proud of them as they stand against today’s civil rights abuses, unwilling to be silenced as a voice for the pre-born. Throughout the entire ordeal, their first and foremost concern was to draw attention to the ultimate civil rights abuse—the murder of pre-born children,” said Jeff White, Founder of Survivors.
Please also see video reports of the incident by Jackson, Miss. television news stations WAPT and WLBT. Both show the Survivors and the police interacting.
Updates will follow as the case progresses.