After a Calgary policeman arrested a pro-life activist Feb. 4 over his use of graphic abortion signs, the police service have dropped the charges and issued an apology, returned his signs, and pledged to prevent similar incidents in the future.
Francisco Gomez, a staff member with the Canadian Centre for Bioethical Reform, was leading the group’s regular “Choice” Chain at a busy Calgary intersection when an officer approached and asked them to take the signs down because they were “distracting” and yielding complaints.
“You guys being here protesting abortion is not the problem. It’s the signs that are the problem. So we need the signs down,” the unidentified officer told Gomez. He said the graphic pictures of aborted babies violated the Criminal Code provisions against obscene material.
When Gomez refused to take down the signs, the officer placed him under arrest, confiscated the signs, and held him in the back of a police car. Shortly thereafter, Gomez was released with a ticket for “stunting,” but the officer kept the signs.
Gomez told LifeSiteNews that he thought the arrest “was clearly content-based discrimination.”
Michael Nunn, spokesman for the Calgary Police Service, told LifeSiteNews that the service “fully recognizes the fundamental freedoms of thought, belief, opinion, expression and of peaceful assembly” outlined in Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
In a statement provided to LifeSiteNews, and readers who lodged complaints, Nunn said that the charges have now been retracted. “We work closely with this group and appreciate the positive relationship we have. We hope that continues in the future,” he said. “While we have made attempts to inform all members of the Service in relation to this group, it appears that his message was not received by all and we will be working to ensure that a similar incident does not occur.”
The Canadian Centre for Bioethical Reform made the incident public in a YouTube video Feb. 6 in an effort to raise awareness of the police service’s actions after several previous run-ins.
Stephanie Gray, the organization’s executive director, told LifeSiteNews that they met with police Feb. 9 after they wrote a formal letter of complaint, and are “optimistic” going forward. “I was impressed by their humility and graciousness in apologizing for all that happened,” she said. “They clearly acknowledged that Francisco’s arrest, detention in a squad car, and ticket for ‘stunting,’ along with the police officer’s seizing of our signs, was wrong. They said all that should never have happened.”
Gray added: “I am hopeful we will not only see an improvement in police behaviour in Calgary, but hope this serves as a teaching opportunity to law enforcement personnel across the country about Canadians’ free expression rights.”
This article is taken from material that originally appeared Feb. 7 and Feb. 10 at LifeSiteNews.com and is reprinted with permission.