Counter-protesters were told to stop handing out fliers, student says

Students who attempted to hand out fliers near last week’s Bama Students for Life anti-abortion protest on the Quad were told by a police officer to stop or be arrested, said Samaria Johnson, the incoming president of the Alabama Alliance for Sexual & Reproductive Justice.

After learning about the Genocide Awareness Project-sponsored protest, the AASRJ applied for a grounds use permit in order to pass out fliers in response to the display. The AASRJ applied for the grounds use permit the same day they started passing out fliers.

“No one had adequate warning about the GAP’s display until the afternoon before it arrived,” said Johnson, a sophomore majoring in history and French.

“A handful of us stood in front of the GAP’s display or nearby to hand them out, and for about an hour we did this freely without interference from either the GAP or the police officers,” Johnson said.

After that hour, Johnson said, things went south after someone made a complaint about the content of their fliers.

“A woman received one of our fliers,” Johnson said. “She then complained to a nearby officer that it was obscene, and our members passing out fliers were approached by an officer and told to stop under threat of arrest.”

Johnson said more officers arrived and moved to arrest two AARSJ members, but after one of them explained the situation, both members were let go.

“We were then warned,” Johnson said, “Without a grounds permit, any member distributing fliers as part of AARSJ would be arrested.”

Johnson sent the Crimson White the text of the “obscene” flier.

“You cannot stop abortion by making it illegal. Each year 47,000 women die as a result of complications from unsafe abortions. Closing clinics kills women.,” the flier read. “Why not address the issues that cause unintended pregnancy? Many women have unintended pregnancies because they lack access to reliable contraceptive methods. Oppose legislation that would allow employers to refuse contraceptive access to their employees! Ask the University of Alabama to make condoms available free of make condoms available free of charge at the Student Health Center, charge at the Student Health Center, the Ferguson Center, and in all residence halls.”

Courtney Pixler, president of Bama Students For Life, said the process of applying for a grounds permit is simple and allows for the right to free speech.

“Bama Students For Life followed University policy when applying for permission to host Genocide Awareness Project,” Pixler said. “We submitted our grounds use permit application for GAP on March 11, 2013. We had a meeting with the grounds office and various university personnel to discuss the logistics of GAP. On April 1, 2013 we received a letter informing us that our event request was approved. The process of applying for a grounds permit is simple, and we thoroughly enjoyed working with the grounds office.”

But Johnson said the length of time between applying for and receiving a grounds permit limits protests that develop spontaneously and organically.

“Obviously UA Facilities is not at fault here for the near-arrest of our counter protesters or the rejection of the grounds permit we filed that same day, but we gave the perfect example of protest developing spontaneously and organically,” she said. “We weren’t filing to host Quidditch on the Quad or film the Harlem Shake; we were responding to a very real issue that demanded direct, immediate address. I think that’s key: no one wants any kind of battle to break out on campus.”

University of Alabama media relations did not respond to questions by press time.

  • Trevor Allen

    The fact that we, as adults, have to APPLY to “allow for free speech,” as Ms. Pixler put it, is ridiculous. The fact that this happened on a college campus, a place of diverse opinions and learning experiences, just adds insult to this fact. There was nothing obscene on those flyers, especially nothing as obscene as the images put up by the GAP demonstration.

  • Gloria Gray

    Nothing obscene on the flyers. What was obscene was the photoshopped pictures that were allowed on campus by Bama For Life! Free speech as nothing to do with allowing pictures of a medical procedure that does not exist and distorts the truth.

    • rcgarand3006

      Now that America has had over 55 million abortions since the Roe v. Wade decision of 1973, photographs of the consequences of tearing small people to pieces are described as a fraud. Would you have the same objection if the Genocide Awareness Project had obtained their photos inside Kermit Gosnell’s late term abortion clinic in Philadelphia? Perhaps they should have taken some photos in the Wilmington, Delaware late-term abortion mill managed by Planned Parenthood?

      I couldn’t help noticing that many students at UA complained about the graphic nature of the Genocide Awareness Project photographs at roughly the same time the university was advertising a free showing of “Django Unchained”, another gorefest from Quentin Tarantino. I realize it’s hard to miss the GAP when it is on the Quad, but a lot of this squeamishness seems selective. The common thread that connects an aversion to both the consequences of abortion and Hollywood bloodbaths is a respect for human dignity. It isn’t hard to connect gory films to densensitization that results in the acceptance of killing babies.

  • rcgarand3006

    Try this idea: a pro-choice demonstration is granted a grounds use permit by the University. Pictures that many people find offensive are displayed. A group of pro-life supporters hastily files for a grounds use permit and prints up a counter-message, then begins handing them out to people who came to view the pro-choice materials. How do you expect Samaria Johnson would respond? Considering her earlier statements that the Bama Students For Life were practicing “intimidation and harassment” by presenting their First Amendment protected message, I expect she would have raced to the police to have the pro-life supporters arrested. If one group tries to hijack another group’s public forum, there is going to be conflict. In this story, a woman received a flier and then complained to the police. This strongly implies that it wasn’t BSFL that complained about their forum being hijacked, since I doubt the reporter would have ignored that fact if it had occurred. Why would someone from the pro-choice group hand a flyer to someone wearing BSFL clothing? Since all the BSFL members I saw wore clothing to clearly identify themselves, I think that it would have made it into the story if one of them went to the police. In short, the appropriate response from the pro-choice group last week would have been to wait until they had approval for a grounds use permit. Crashing a controversial, First Amendment protected demonstration is a recipe for potentially violent conflict. (Think pro-war versus anti-war protestors.) I would hope the University would help preserve public order by requiring each group to obtain their grounds use permits. Additionally, I would recommend physical separation of at least 100 yards to lessen the chance of an unfortunate incident.

    • Samaria Johnson

      No, dear. The BSFL practiced “intimidation and harassment” through their use of racially-charged language and appropriation of racial and class history. They could have made their argument well, and they did not. We did not interfere in any way with what the BSFL or GAP did, and obviously the woman who complained was unaffiliated. Do not blame AASRJ or any other pro-choicer for their failures.

      Nice try, though. Play again.

      • rcgarand3006

        Maybe instead of “intimidation and harassment” you should just play the “hate speech” card next time. Alternatively, you could put together a pro-choice demonstration. The bland acceptance of destroying babies won’t stir up the student body, after all.

        Year after year, hundreds of thousands of pro-life protesters mark the Roe v. Wade anniversary with a March for Life in Washington, DC. If it gets any mainstream media attention at all, they are sure to balance it with equal time for the 200 pro-choice demonstrators who turn out. Demographics is not on the side of the pro-choice movement. If you compare the birth rates of strongly pro-choice and pro-life supporters, it’s obvious who will win in the long run if we stick to a “one person, one vote” system. Look at this photo from the 2013 March for Life in Washington, DC!/img/httpImage/alg-mall-crowd-jpg.jpg

        Of course, the news barons who are all strongly pro-choice ignore the annual March for Life, just as they ignored the “Butcher of Philadelphia” for as long as they could (about 4 weeks into the trial).

        • Samaria Johnson

          What, misusing the term genocide and comparing abortion to womb lynching ISN’T hate speech? Hate speech is technically allowed under the First Amendment, as is counterprotest, so your argument doesn’t make sense. What was problematic is not that BSFL or the GAP’s rights were abused or that they stepped out of bounds, but that AASRJ did. We did not. The Student Handbook does not disallow the distribution of fliers without a permit, regardless of whether that’s done as an individual or with a student organization.

          The anti-choice movement will shoot itself in the foot before long. It already has, because the extremist measures being passed at the moment in a number of different states are indicative of desperation. The pro-choice side addressed the abortion doctor in Philly long before the mainstream news got wind of it, and of course we ignore the March for Life – it’s an annual parade of misogyny, hetero- and cissexism, and Christian fundies who have a disturbing interest in what people do with their reproductive organs.

          • Fletcher Armstrong

            Samaria, name-calling and ad hominem attacks are no substitutes for reasoned arguments.

          • Brad Erthal

            But they’re fun when you’re done with your case and the jackasses on the other side throw three or four fallacious arguments at the wall hoping you take time out of your day to knock them down. Take a logic course at the community college and try not to spend the whole class asserting your faith this time. Then maybe come back and make just one reasoned argument and I will stop the ad hominems, which incidentally are only fallacious if used as an argument. Also the phrase “name-calling and ad hominem attacks” is so filled with redundancy I would suggest a cursory Google search any time you are considering whether to spruce up your tired prose with Latin.

          • rcgarand3006

            “of course we ignore the March for Life”

            Your automatic use of “we” betrays the alignment of the mainstream media outlets and the pro-choice movement. By any objective standard, a half million people marching on Washington, D.C. should merit some national news stories, particularly when 2013 was the 40th Anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision to Federalize the abortion issue. Also, it isn’t reasonable for the protestors outnumbered by 10,000 to 1 to get equal time in front of the TV cameras in case the local TV stations in Northern Virginia or Maryland decide to cover the story since the locals might be wondering why the city is suddenly so crowded.

            The media is quite selective in covering “marches on Washington”. The “Million Mom March” (pro gun control), “Million Man March” (pro civil rights), march for gay rights, and so on get plenty of coverage. participate in the March for Life and it wouldn’t be deemed “newsworthy”.

  • Daniel Turner

    A. General Guidelines
    1. Solicitations, advertisements, sales, displays, yard signs or distribution of publications on The University of Alabama campus sponsored by a recognized student organization or a University academic or administrative department are permissible as provided herein…

    B. Advertisements, Printed Materials, and Publicity
    1. General Provisions
    a. Printed materials may be posted on designated bulletin boards in accordance with these guidelines. Posting of printed materials in any other location inside campus buildings is prohibited.
    b. Posted materials must not be obscene, must not be libelous, and must not be directed to and likely to have the effect of inciting or producing imminent lawless action
    c. Advertisers are responsible for the removal and proper disposal of all advertising materials within seventy two (72) hours after the publicized event has occurred or the time limits or conditions of the advertisement have expired.
    d. City codes and state statutes prohibit notices on any curb, tree, mailbox, utility pole, or public building.
    e. Printed materials may not be affixed to the outside of University buildings.
    f. Placement of printed materials on motor vehicles is prohibited.
    g. Printed materials may be distributed on public sidewalks. The distribution must be conducted in a way that does not impede with free and unimpeded pedestrian and vehicular traffic or disturb or interfere with normal academic, administrative, or student activities. Tables or structures, which would impede pedestrian traffic on public sidewalks, are prohibited. Other individual’s right of privacy must be respected and intrusive or harassing conduct, such as accosting individuals, blocking or impeding their passage, and similar behavior is prohibited.
    h. Any litter comprised of the material being distributed must be collected and properly disposed of by the person or organization distributing the printed material. The University will assess the reasonable costs of cleanup to those persons or organizations failing to comply with this requirement.”

    Exactly which one of these regulations was not followed? Why are these people being called “counter-protestors.” Passing out printed materials does not constitute a counter-protest.

  • rcgarand3006

    Should a woman always have choice of whether or not to carry her pregnancy to term? Should her choice have any limits? Mara Hvistendahl, an ardent supporter of women’s choice published a carefully researched book called “Unnatural Selection” in 2011. She documents how sex selective abortions have yielded a missing 163 million women from the world’s population.

    From the book review:
    “Take South Korea. In 1989, the sex ratio for first births there was 104 boys for every 100 girls—perfectly normal. But couples who had a girl became increasingly desperate to acquire a boy. For second births, the male number climbed to 113; for third, to 185.
    Among fourth-born children, it was a mind-boggling 209.”
    “As early as 1969, the Population Council’s Sheldon Segal was publicly proclaiming the benefits of sex-selective abortion as a means of combating the “population bomb” in the East.”
    “Despite the author’s intentions, “Unnatural Selection” might be one of the most consequential books ever written in the campaign against abortion. It is aimed, like a heat-seeking missile, against the entire intellectual framework of “choice.” For if “choice” is the moral imperative guiding abortion, then there is no way to take a stand
    against “gendercide.” Aborting a baby because she is a girl is no different from aborting a baby because she has Down syndrome or because the mother’s “mental health” requires it. Choice is choice. One Indian abortionist tells Ms. Hvistendahl: “I have patients who come and say ‘I want to abort because if this baby is born it will be a Gemini, but I want a Libra.’ ”
    Sex selective abortion goes on in the USA also.
    Another review:
    “In the U.S., gender imbalance that favors boys is seen in Asian-American communities that have what Eberstadt calls a “biologically impossible imbalance between little boys and little girls.” Normal is 103 or 104 boys for every 100 girls. Over 107 should set off alarm bells and 130 would be “sci-fi land,” he says.”

    • Cody Houston Frederick

      “Antiabortion advocates would have us believe that the practice of sex selection — a fundamentally sexist act — somehow justifies further curtailing women’s rights.”

      – Mara Hvistendahl (since you likely copy and pasted that whole spiel, that’s the person you just cited)

      Thank, play again!

      • rcgarand3006

        According to Mara Hvistendahl’s data collection, the right to life of 165 million women since the late 1970′s has been curtailed. If abortion on demand remains legal: Asia in particular will continue to suffer the growing, negative effects of a gender imbalance. The irony of the feminist movement’s success in getting near-universal abortion on demand leading to the declining birth rate of women is not to be missed. You can blame “partiarchies.” I’m going to blame legalizing and providing government support for this “choice” in the first place, regardless of societal structure. Be honest, if abortion was illegal: organizations could not fund them, doctors would be risking their licenses by performing them and therefore we would have far fewer of them than we do now. Maybe the huge backlog of families-to-be waiting to adopt could then be addressed.

        At the current rate of population decline, Russia will fall from 142 million to 111 million people by 2100.

        Abortion is by far the preferred method of contraception in Russia.

        I’m not trying to win some argument like an attorney, I’m just trying to point out that this emperor has no clothes. Might makes right. If you are “a big person”, you have the choice of having sex, then the choice of either accepting the consequences or else labeling “the little person” as a “fetus/parasite/blob of tissue” and getting a doctor to kill them off so you can go on with your life at the expense of theirs. The rest of the arguments are just the lies we tell ourselves.

        • Brad Erthal

          Thank you for putting on an absolute clinic in non sequiturs and quote-mining. I stand in awe.

  • FletcherArmstrongBlog

    posted by mistake. Please delete.

    • Brad Erthal

      There’s no mechanism for them to do that. You have the option to delete your own comment. Upper right corner, bro. Way to neatly summarize the intellectual heft of the members of your cause for us though. I bequeath you the title “representative ignoramus”.

      • Fletcher Armstrong

        Brad, you disappoint me. Based on your op-ed piece, I gave you more credit than that.

        • Brad Erthal

          Having read your previous rambling attempts to find a coherent point in the haystack of non sequiturs, I cannot claim a symmetrical disappointment. Do not confuse my willingness to engage in a reasoned argument with respect for your position. You dismiss my position on astoundingly fallacious grounds and cover the staggering arrogance of your assertions with saccharine suggestions that I am one of the good ones on my side (implicitly rarring all the people, some much better than i, who have put less time into formulating a position, and more into, say, volunteering at rape crisis hotlines), and then have such surplus audacity to suggest that I diminish myself to treat you with a tone other than utter dismissiveness? I really wish the filter on here were looser so that I could tell you exactly into which part of your anatomy you can shove your smug self-importance.

          • Fletcher Armstrong

            Name-calling and ad hominem attacks are no substitutes for reasoned arguments. In fact, they are often the last resort of people who have no argument.
            You have yet to offer one resoned argument as to why the preborn child is anything less than a human being, or why it is OK to kill her. Asserting the critereon of sentience is not the same as arguing for it. Can you offer one argument? If not, then of course you must resort to name-calling and ad hominem attacks. It’s a pity; it really is.

          • Brad Erthal

            The original piece is limited to 700 words maximum. I don’t think I’ve written one under 690 words, ever. It’s difficult in that space to argue every point. You have literally not offered a single reasoned point at all. However, I see no reason to consider anything incapable of sentience a human being for moral purposes. That’s ultimately irrelevant anyway to this debate since you have yet to even discuss bodily rights in a coherent way, but you need to argue for some other criterion for humanity, or sit down.

          • Fletcher Armstrong

            The only criterion for humanity is to be the offspring of human parents. There are no other qualifiers.

          • Brad Erthal

            Typically in moral philosophy, people try to make arguments rather than assertions. The above is an assertion, now argue for it from at least two premises. I can actually make a good argument for you if you want, but I’d feel bad tearing it apart after. It would feel like a straw man.

  • Brad Erthal

    So it was literally impossible in this situation to counter-protest this group? I wish I’d known that arrests were being threatened at the time. I’d gladly have found my way out there to have a nice, respectful conversation about what exactly campus police thought they were doing in issuing threats of arrest for what was not in any sense a violation of campus rules.