Rules for Rallies: Avoiding conflict over abortion victim photos

CBR volunteer Debbie Picarello on the public sidewalk near a pro-life rally in Nashville

CBR volunteer Debbie Picarello on the public sidewalk near a pro-life rally in Tennessee.  CBR cooperated with rally organizers to select reasonable display locations.

It’s a source of conflict and it won’t go away.  What do you think?  Please comment.

More and more, pro-life activists are showing up at political events, Tea Party functions, Christian assemblies, and even pro-life rallies to display abortion victim photos (AVPs).  We at CBR do it, and so do others.

Event organizers routinely take exception to this, asserting that we are being disrespectful, divisive, disruptive, etc.  They ask us to put away our signs.  “This isn’t the time or place,” they say.

We do it anyway.  It is our duty to expose injustice.  Yet, over and over again, it is never the disaster that rally organizers fear.  Maybe it’s because we always respect the rights of organizers to reserve space for their own exclusive use, and we never disrupt or interfere with any of their activities.  Here is how we do it:

  1. We communicate our intent to display AVPs near the subject event.
  2. We assure the organizers that we will keep our signs out of whatever space they have reserved for their own exclusive use.
  3. We promise that we will not go near the podium nor interfere with the event in any way.
  4. We make it clear that we are not there to protest their event, but to deliver our message to an important audience.  We come as friends and co-laborers, albeit determined to fulfill our own particular mission.
  5. We even let the event organizers tell us where they want us to stand, within reason.  When they see that we are reasonable, then they are reasonable (most of the time).
  6. We send a letter or e-mail to the police notifying them of our intent to display AVPs; we offer to meet with them to discuss locations, rules of conduct, etc.

Why do we show up at pro-life events?  Because the abortion industry is chopping up little babies and selling them for parts, and somebody needs make that point clearly visible and undeniable.

Pro-lifers are an important audience for our message.  We want them to see how serious abortion is.  Almost every full-time pro-life activist can trace his activism back to that day he first saw an abortion photo.

We want to demonstrate how AVPs can be displayed in a respectful way.

Finally, we want to invite pro-lifers to become more active in the movement, perhaps as a vocation.  That’s vocation, not vacation!  The other side has made killing babies a full-time profession, but we have made saving them a part-time hobby.

Yes, pro-lifers are often our most important audience, but there are others.  For example, we want news reporters to know that abortion decapitates and dismembers its victims.  Whether they decide to report that fact is another thing, but at least they will know.

Passersby will wonder what the rally is all about.  We want them to see that the rally isn’t about the abstract notion of “choice,” but instead is about the decapitation and dismemberment of little human beings.

So what happens?  Nothing bad.  In the end, we have never caused a problem for event organizers, despite their initial fear and trepidation at our presence.  They did their thing, we did ours, and we all sang Kumbaya at sunset.  Well, maybe everyone didn’t sing Kumbaya, but nobody has ever claimed that we disrupted their event.

May we respectfully offer the following Rules for Rallies for your consideration:

  1. People who organize rallies have every right to set their own agendas.
  2. People who organize rallies have every right to control the space they reserve for their own exclusive use.  They get to decide what signs get brought into that space and what signs don’t.
  3. People who organize rallies don’t get to control everything within visible sight, however.  Spaces that are still available for general use (i.e., still available for use by the general public while the event is being held) may not be claimed by the organizers as off-limits to AVPs.
  4. People who display AVPs have every right to do so on the public sidewalk and in public spaces that are not being used by rally organizers.
  5. People who display AVPs have every right to target whatever audience they choose, including people who are going to or leaving a rally, with whatever message they choose.  Just as the pro-life movement (PLM) is fighting against the status quo of abortion in society, some in the PLM are challenging the status quo of the PLM itself.
  6. People who display AVPs have as much right to engage people walking toward a rally as pro-lifers have a right to engage people walking toward an abortion facility.
  7. Nobody has the right to veto the proclamation of truth.
  8. Displaying AVPs near a rally does not disrupt a rally.
  9. People who display AVPs should, as a courtesy, notify the rally organizers of the plan to respectfully display AVPs on a nearby public space in a way that does not interfere with the rally itself.
  10. Under most circumstances, it is not unreasonable for the rally organizers to ask for a 5-foot buffer between their crowd and the people holding AVPs.

As a matter of course, we always notify the police that we intent to display AVPs.  In our letter or e-mail, we normally offer to meet with them to answer questions and discuss specifics.  This gives the police managers a chance to tell the street officers that we do indeed have the right to be there.

That’s what FAB thinks, but you might change our minds.  What do you think?

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2 Responses to “Rules for Rallies: Avoiding conflict over abortion victim photos”

  1. July 30th, 2015 at 10:14 am

    Don Blythe says:

    The time for cutzie rallies and feel good speakers is way over. 42 years and 57 million aborted babies.

    Most, if not all, leaders in the Abolition movement were inspired and led into battle by the disturbing photos, not podiums.

  2. July 30th, 2015 at 6:21 pm

    Jane says:

    Don is exactly right. Respect is necessary amongst pro-lifers, but continuing to hide the truth from ANY group of people is totally unacceptable. Real lives are at stake. Babies are being dismembered and decapitated at a rate of 3000 per day in our country.

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