Anti-Abortion Protest Leaders Charged With Contempt
CINCINNATI (AP) _ A judge released five anti-abortion protesters Tuesday after they spent the night in jail for taking part in a rally where demonstrators defied his order to limit pickets outside an abortion clinic.
Protesters have been picketing for months outside the Margaret Sanger Center, operated by Planned Parenthood Association of Cincinnati.
Hamilton County Common Pleas Judge Thomas Crush cautioned the five men, and two other men who were arrested Tuesday, that they could face additional criminal charges if they fail to appear Friday for a hearing. All seven were released on their recognizance after pleading innocent.
Planned Parenthood and neighbors of the clinic have asked Crush to require demonstrators to post $10,000 bond that would be forfeited if they violate picketing restraints in the future.
The seven were charged with contempt of court by violating Crush’s injunction permitting only five pickets at a time outside the clinic.
Police said an estimated 60 demonstrators showed up at the center Saturday.
An additional six arrest warrants that Crush signed Monday were still outstanding. The demonstrators face a maximum $500 fine and 10-day jail sentence.
Copies of Crush’s order were handed out to demonstrators Saturday by sheriff’s deputies. But the protesters discarded the copies or threw them into a small fire, saying they were willing to risk contempt citations to continue their activities.
On Monday night, anti-abortion activists took their protest to the Hamilton County jail in support of demonstrators who spent the night in jail.
During their three-hour demonstration, about 85 pickets marched around the jail and county courthouse shouting ″good job″ to their jailed comrades.
The demonstrators said they were praying, not protesting Crush’s arrest orders.
″I believe if the protesters are fined substantially and often, and those fines are collected, it will help dissuade them,″ said Timothy Black, an attorney for Planned Parenthood. ″Incarceration will make them martyrs. Fine after fine after fine makes it tougher for them.″
Demonstrators claimed Crush’s order violated their constitutional rights to free speech. Their attorneys have asked the 1st Ohio District Court of Appeals to throw out the order.