County drops strip-searches for pro-life protesters

By Bob Unruh
© 2011 WorldNetDaily

A Maryland county has agreed to change its procedures so that peaceful, pro-life protesters no longer are strip-searched and shackled to shut them up, according to a report from the Alliance Defense Fund.

The organization has been working for several years on the litigation since the incident developed in 2008.

According to the claim filed on behalf of about 18 pro-life protesters, authorities violated the U.S. Constitution when they first ordered the protesters off of county property, then later when protesters complied and moved to city property, swooped down on them in seven police cars, shackled, strip-searched and jailed them.

The agreement provides for the county and several individuals to be dismissed as defendants based on the promised change in policy. Claims against other defendants remain.

The arrest of pro-life protesters is being challenged in court

The ADF said the county “agreed to a policy change to ensure that peaceful protesters will be protected from undergoing strip searches at the county detention center.”

“Pro-life advocates should certainly not be strip searched for peacefully expressing their beliefs,” said Daniel Blomberg, litigation counsel for the ADF. “The county did the right thing by changing its policy so that pro-life advocates will no longer be subjected to such needless and embarrassing searches for lawfully exercising their First Amendment protected right to free speech.” 

On that day in August 2008, at least a dozen state, county and city police officers handcuffed 18 participants in an annual Defend Life “Face the Truth” Pro-Life Tour.

The participants started their peaceful event along a public road in Harford County. Later, however, the group relocated to public property in the town of Bel Air, where they had been several times in past tours, after being told by state troopers to leave the county for not having a county permit to engage in free speech activities. The officers then arrested them in Bel Air without explanation.

Once in custody, the young women who had been arrested – at least two of whom were teenagers – were subjected to two rounds of strip searches, according to the ADF.

Only after the strip searches and a night spent in jail were they told why they were arrested. A week after their release, the state dropped the charges of loitering, disorderly conduct and failure to obey a lawful order that had been filed.

The county later confirmed, too, that there is no requirement for a “permit” as the protesters had been told.

WND reported earlier when the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit rejected the claim by police officers that they were immune from the lawsuit.

Read more: County drops strip-searches for pro-life protesters

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