Police restrict reporters activity on scene

Linda Gibbons is in custody once again after her latest challenge of the Ontario government’s “bubble zone” court injunction shielding certain abortion centres from pro-life activities.

Gibbons was handcuffed and dragged to a waiting police cruiser by three police officers and a sheriff the morning of Feb. 13 after pacing back and forth with a placard reading, “Why mom? When I have so much love to give” outside the Scott Clinic abortuary on Gerrard Street East in downtown Toronto. The site is shielded by a 60-foot zone within which pro-life activity is prohibited. Demonstrating with her at the time was Milton, Ont. evangelist Rev. Ken Campbell, who was not arrested.

Unlike Gibbons’s previous arrest last October, in connection with which she later received a one-day jail sentence and a probationary term, the text of the injunction was not read to her, nor was she warned to leave the area. The apparent reason for this was that she was still under probation, which included a provision that she stay away from three Toronto abortuaries, including the Scott Clinic.

Four other pro-life demonstrators stood across the street from the abortuary, holding placards in support of Gibbons. The entire episode was over in about 20 minutes. At press time, Gibbons remained in custody and the precise nature of charges against her were unclear.

In another instance of apparent police intimidation of the media, the lone reporter on the scene was approached by a police officer on bicycle – later identified as a Sergeant Moyer – who proceeded to warn in a sharp tone that, “Under no circumstances are you to take my picture, you understand?”

The reporter, fearing arrest as more police cruisers appeared on the scene, decided to comply with the demand. Consequently, no photos of the arrest process were taken, since Moyer was one of the arresting officers.

After later being asked for his badge number in order that a complaint against his conduct could be lodged, Moyer responded that he wasn’t in a position to speak to media. However, reminded that he was obliged to reveal his badge number when requested, he finally did so. The reporter is pursuing a formal complaint with the Toronto Police Service.

Three reporters had been arrested and charged with obstructing police in October 1999 while covering a demonstration by Gibbons at the same site. After many months and several thousand dollars in legal fees, the charges were dropped because there was “no reasonable probability of conviction.”

Curiously, on the latest occasion, a number of police cruisers appeared on the scene after Gibbons was arrested and driven away. At that point, sheriff David Usher crossed the street to confront the pro-life demonstrators and warn them about the consequences of stepping within the 60-foot injunction zone.

“If you go in there, we’ll be back and it won’t take long,” he cautioned. He then asked if anyone wanted a written copy of the injunction.

In an exchange between Moyer and Campbell, the policeman noted that, “I hate seeing (Gibbons) go in … We’re all pretty kind people. We sympathize with you … Hopefully, this thing will get resolved … I hardly consider Linda a catch today.”

Campbell remarked afterwards that the observations reminded him of how reluctant some police seem to be to continually arrest a diminutive grandmother for peaceful, pro-life activities.

“In the past, police have told me they’re embarrassed about taking Linda in,” he said.