Activism

Mississippi school district had pro-lifers arrested for free speech

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The Life Legal Defense Foundation has taken up the case of two pro-lifers, members of a Survivors campus outreach team who were arrested in 2012 for peaceful pro-life advocacy, citing it as a clear case of abuse.

In 2012, Kristina Garza and Brianna Baxter were distributing pro-life literature on the public sidewalk outside of Murrah High School in Jackson, Mississippi. Jackson Public School District claimed the sidewalk was private property and ordered them to leave, eventually having JPSD campus enforcement officers arrest them. Their own police report admits the officers also “used their hands and arms as human barricades in an attempt to keep the [Survivors] from handing out their material.”

Additionally, while incarcerated, the activists were denied repeated requests for food and water, not allowed to call their attorneys, moved to multiple detention centers, and authorities took excessively long to book them. All told, they were imprisoned for over 24 hours.

LLDF further notes that the JPSD changed their stories with police more than once, even claiming the activists engaged in disorderly conduct:

Video and photographic evidence, as well as eyewitness testimony from students, shows that these young women merely engaged in peaceful free speech activities. At no time did they violate the law. The facts are virtually undisputed since there are several video recordings of the events.

“As a matter of constitutional law, citizens have a right to engage in free speech on a public sidewalk,” Life Legal Defense Foundation Senior Staff Attorney Allison Aranda said. “The law is clear. Students and the public have the right to engage in peaceful, non-disruptive free speech on the public sidewalk adjacent to schools.”

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