Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Protestors Outside Romney Rally

Image by Matt Johnson
Protestors gathered outside the Asheville Civic Center on Thursday, October 11 when Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romeny came to town.   I am standing in their midst holding a sign that says, ABORTION KILLS CHILDREN.  We are facing a mass of people thronging inside the center.  Before this, I and several other people handed out about 1,200 flyers promoting the work of Life Advocates and the Ministry of Presence at abortion places.  The media and Romeny organizers estimated that 10,000 people attended the rally.

Here is a link to the video that contained the image above: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gVHWBIzBgok

Arrested at Biden Event

Photo by John Fletcher, Asheville Citizen-Times

By M. Hunt

On Tuesday, October 2 my wife Edie and I went to the campus of UNCA with a sign that said, “Abortion Hurts Women.”  VP Joe Biden was scheduled to campaign at the Justice Athletic Center.   My purpose in going was simply to take a stand against abortion with a truth that is difficult to rebut, one that should be a concern of politically liberal people

When we arrived on campus we drove around trying to decide where to be.  Edie dropped me off in front of the cafeteria so I could talk with the six or eight Romney supporters and anti-Obama/Biden protestors.  The area there is a longstanding “free speech zone.”  The protestors were not happy about being so far away from the event—the Justice Center was about three blocks away.  I decided to go down there to see if I could persuade police to let me stay and, if so, I’d call the other protestors to join me.  I noted the phone number of one of the protestors, a Romney supporter and also a student at UNCA.

Edie then dropped me near the Justice Center with my sign.  I stood on the sidewalk near the UNCA Bulldog mascot statue and the media trucks.  I was there a few seconds only when I noticed a man who appeared to be Secret Service walk down next to me and beckon to a police officer across the road with his finger.

My argument to the police was that the press and I both were present under the auspices of the First Amendment.  I did not prevail in convincing them that I had a right to be there on the sidewalk of a public university.   I did say, “If a Secret Service agent tells me to move, I will move.”  No Secret Service agent did so.  The one person who appeared to be Secret Service refused to identify himself as such, saying, “We’re not discussing any security arrangements we may or may not have.”

The police told me that where I was standing was a “secure area.”  I replied that they should allow the protestors to be there.  I offered to be searched.  Video from the Asheville Citizen-Times that I found later shows the Biden motorcade passing right by the location and moving toward the parking spaces that had been taped off.

The campus police chief arrived, talked with me, and then consulted with someone on the phone, probably an administrator.  He came back to me to say that it was University policy not to allow me to stand there with a sign.  When I respectfully declined to move to the designated free speech area, I was arrested, handcuffed, taken to jail, and charged with second degree trespassing.    After two hours of processing and waiting, I was fingerprinted and released on a signature bond.  First court appearance is set for December 4.

I hope people realize that my sign and its message probably had little to do with why I was told to move and why I was arrested.  I think anyone with any sign would have received the same treatment.  It’s likely that in those minutes prior to the motorcade arriving, the police would have prevented any non-law enforcement people from being there.  There also is the issue of trespassing on public property.  Yes, it was public property and yes it was a sidewalk, but it was on a college campus and the law for this kind of public property is somewhat different than it is in the rest of Asheville.  The difference is that the priority of the campus is serving students and university programs and not the public at large.  The general public does have access to the university, but the university is within its legal rights to limit or prohibit access that interferes with or disrupts university functions.

The problem is when the university suppresses free speech activity that does not interfere or disrupt university functions.   This unjustified suppression is common on campuses and not only of the general public but of a university’s own students.  Keeping students within a small artificial “zone” is a prime example.  The zone has an upside for non-university people in that they can just show up without notice, and by the way, without alarming campus police.  But it has a downside because it implies that the rest of the campus, the outdoor spaces, is off limits.

I have been engaged in free speech activity on perhaps 50 campuses across the eastern United States and as far west as Oklahoma and South Dakota.  I have seen numerous loud and raucous protests—against the display I helped bring.  Protest members are students and faculty as well as non-university people.   In each of these cases, the university allowed the protests to proceed, deciding that they did not interfere with the functions of the university, in fact they understood that the protests augmented them!  They encouraged debate and the interchange of ideas.  They encouraged social activism.

Last year at a major university in Virginia we set up our large prolife display (eighteen 4 x 8 panels) at a busy foot traffic intersection.  The university gave two spots for counterdemonstrations, one on each side of us—a gay rights group fairly close, and a Planned Parenthood group about a block away.   The police kept the PP group at a distance so to minimize conflict, as they thought.  We have enough experience to know that protestors near the display only increase the attention it gets, so we never encourage the university to keep protestors away, unless, of course, they put up large sheets so others cannot see  our signs. It has happened. By the second day, most of the PP and pro-abortion-choice students were in right in front of our display engaged in multiple, long and sometimes intense conversation.

In short, universities limit educational opportunities when they unnecessarily suppress free speech as does UNCA and also, by the way, AB-Tech.

One thing I told the campus police.  I had as much right to stand on the sidewalk in that location with my sign as Vice President Joe Biden had to campaign for himself and President Obama inside the Justice Center.  We both were using public university facilities for private purposes.  One difference is that Biden did disturb university functions.

Biden and the general public were going inside and the university should have made provision for me and the general public to express our opposition to Biden and his agenda, express it directly to those who support him.  There is no legitimate reason why they could not have set up a secure protest area in proximity to the Justice Center.

My stand that lead to the arrest represents a simple concept--that I as a citizen of the United States have certain rights.  I have a fundamental right of free speech.  I have a right to be on public property if I have not done anything that revokes that right.  I did not disrupt any university function.  I was not a security risk to anyone.   Consider this, what does it say about our nation when a person, even in the special circumstances at UNCA, is arrested for simply holding a sign on a sidewalk?

Oh, and by the way, abortion hurts women.  What does that say about our nation?

Thursday, October 11, 2012


If you’re here now, you probably picked up a Life Advocates flyer at the Mitt Romney rally in Asheville on Thursday.

I’d like to give you a bit of introduction.  Life Advocates began in 1988 when a small group of people decided to organize a Pastors’ Protest Against Abortion in Asheville.  Two-hundred people rallied at what was then the City-County Plaza and afterwards we broke up to picket at four locations that performed abortion.  Fortunately, other than Mission hospital, we only have one abortion location now.  Two have closed.  Over the years we’ve had numerous rallies, pickets, and protests, including a Life Chain with 110 churches and 3800 people participating.

The flyer you received mentioned our Ministry of Presence efforts.  For 15 years we’ve had at least a minimal presence of one person at “Femcare” nearly every time people are coming for abortion.  When we offer help to women we call this Sidewalk Counseling.  We need more people to join us.  In addition to this outreach we maintain a 24 hour Pregnancy Helpline.  Visit our pregnancy care website, www.abortionAsheville.com.  For years we held an all night prayer vigil at the abortion site, with a number of churches participating.

Life Advocates has been involved in supporting legislation, both state and federal, that’s designed to protect women and children from abortion.

I as Director of Life Advocates engage in what I call, “literary activism” by writing fictional stories that depict characters who struggle with controversies of the day and the basic conditions of life.  Some of the stories are fantastical or speculative, that is, with the genre of Science Fiction or Horror.  My novel, Universal Man is a “contemplative thriller” that features people who carry their beliefs about abortion to their logical conclusions.  You can learn more about the novel at our website www.chaoticterrain.com.    Some of my short stories may be read free at www.chaoticterrainpress.blogspot.com.

Another focus has been reaching out to university students with the Genocide Awareness Project through the Center for Bioethical Reform (CBR).  GAP is a large mural containing images of aborted children juxtaposed with images of other historical atrocities.   I work with the CBR’s Knoxville office and have been on a team taking GAP to over 50 universities throughout the Southeast and elsewhere, including six of North Carolina’s major university campuses.  I’ve been as far west as South Dakota and as for Northeast as Rhode Island.  CBR’s national website is www.abortionNo.org.  Be forewarned.  The images are shocking.  The Knoxville office has a softer website at www.prolifeoncampus.com.

The rest of this blog contains articles and photographs from work of ours in the past few years.  I hope you will take a little time to look them over.  Even more, I hope that you will be moved to become involved in our Ministry of Presence and Sidewalk Counseling.  Politicians come and go.  Elections are won and lost.  But until our nation repents and we finally decide to protect children in the womb, this need will continue, week by week, month by month, and year by year.  We are committed for the long haul.  Will you join us?