Abortion protesters worried but undeterred by past arrests

Protesters with giant pictures of aborted fetuses and other anti-abortion messages were back in Bel Air on a hot Friday afternoon after a successful lawsuit against the Maryland State Police, which dispersed a similar rally three summers ago.

Despite winning the legal battle for their constitutional rights to protest, members of Defend Life, the Baltimore-based Catholic organization behind the protest, were concerned about police interference, if not deterred by it.

Samantha Linnemann, who was holding a picture of an aborted baby on the side of Route 24 at MacPhail Road, said she was at the same spot in 2008 when 18 of her fellow protesters were arrested, although she was not one of them.

She said the police threatened to arrest Defend Life participants again last year.

"That's very scary. I mean, our police should protect us. Our police should make us feel safe," she said. "I do feel threatened and I see police drive by and I fear what they are going to do."

But Linnemann was equally determined not to be moved by the threat.

"We need to be strong. We need to stand up for what we know is right," she said. "Regardless of how you feel about abortion, everyone cares about their First Amendment rights. Regardless of what you protest – abortion rights, gay rights – you should have the right to do that."

Linnemann said she knows what Defend Life is doing is right, and the lawsuit was encouraging.

"We know what the laws are and we know we are within our own rights to stay on public property, and we are constitutionally protected to do this," she said. "The case has shown that we weren't doing anything illegal, and truth and justice did eventually prevail."

About 20 Defend Life protesters in blue T-shirts prominently labeled "Pro Life" were holding pictures along the dual highway, along with smaller signs reading "Honk for Life!"

They also waved American flags and propped up some green signs reading "The Pill Kills," in reference to the birth control pill.

A number of people driving by honked in response, and there did not seem to be any police presence at the start of the protest.

Kurt Linnemann, a "full-time pro-life activist" with the Center for Bio-Ethical Reform, and the husband of Samantha Linnemann, said he learned about the 2008 arrests afterward, when he was with some parents whose children did not come home because they had been arrested.

"We have First Amendment rights. We should be allowed to be here…We are bringing awareness of the truth of what happens to a baby who is aborted," he said, adding it's "dangerous" if they or any other protesters face police threats.

"Perhaps it has made us more determined to fight for our rights," he said.

Being out protesting is not just desirable, "it's necessary. We need to fight whenever there's a violation [of rights]," he said.

Copyright © 2018, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad