The kind of police and private-citizen harassment that took place in Regina recently is nothing new to Bill Whatcott. It’s all part of his determined pro-life and anti-homosexuality stand.
According to Whatcott, he and four others were peacefully protesting near Regina’s City Hospital Feb. 18, when police officers arrived in three cruisers and a pick-up truck. It was 4:25 p.m., a busy time on a main thoroughfare. The group’s six graphic, pro-life signs were quickly seized.
“We were just standing there holding signs,” Whatcott said. “The police came and didn’t even give us a chance to disperse. They detained each of us in the cruisers and put our signs in the back of the truck.”
Each of the five protesters was handed a ticket ordering them to appear in court on April 25 as they were charged with distracting drivers on the highway — a charge that could carry a $125 penalty. Signs seized at the scene will be used as evidence, police said.
Whatcott explained: “Of course we’ll plead ‘not guilty.'”
Although the group had no option but to leave, Whatcott said they were back at the same place three days later. “This is an on-going picket,” he said. “Every Monday and Friday we protest on Broad Street near the City Hospital from 3:30-4:30 p.m. in order to get the rush hour traffic.”
Not only were the protesters back, so were those opposed to the graphic nature of the signs used by Whatcott’s organization. “On Feb. 23 a large-built man threatened to assault one of the protesters,” he said. “I’ve had a bag of McDonald’s food thrown at me on another occasion and just this past Monday a Christian girl pulled up and started arguing with me.”
Whatcott recounted her anger. “She said she was ashamed to be associated with our work.” He went on to explain that he knows not every pro-lifer agrees with his tactics but “they aren’t usually so obnoxious.”
In the midst of protests, insults and police charges, Whatcott is encouraged. He cites the story of an aboriginal man who approached him regarding a woman’s right to choose. “He came back about two weeks later with a different attitude,” he said, telling of the change of heart. “Sure the signs are offensive,” the gentleman said, “but I was pro-choice two weeks ago but I’m not since I saw the signs. I realize now that this is killing.”
Whatcott also speaks appreciatively of the behaviour of local police officers, crediting them with charges against a woman who assaulted Nelson Boyer, a First Nations protester.
“These are decent police officers,” he said. “They are not offensive.”
In the continuing saga between Whatcott, Regina Health District, and the law, Whatcott faces yet another investigation – this time by the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission over his public comments and literature on the gay-lesbian issue.
In March, Whatcott distributed approximately 1,500 such flyers at the University of Saskatchewan’s “Breaking the Silence Conference” and another 800 more in a door-to-door blitz. The results of those activities are not a surprise: both verbal and physical threats against him, angry e-mails, and another five individuals complaining to either the Human Rights Commission or the Justice Department.
But a surprising development resulted from a confrontation between Whatcott and Don Cochrane, dean of gay and lesbian studies for the University of Saskatchewan and organizer of the event. “He asked to do lunch with me in the near future,” Whatcott said. “I accepted.”For Whatcott, there are no grey areas – charges, investigations and insults fail to deter him; any evidence that his message is getting through brings encouragement. Whatever the reaction, though, you will find him somewhere, very soon, protesting what he sees as evil and promoting the causes of life and morality.