The police stood near Jackson Women's Health Organization, the last abortion clinic in Mississippi, on July 17 as Mike Peters picked up each of the large portable signs and took them to his building's basement./File Photo
Photo by Trip Burns.
Last week, Mike Peters, the owner of Fondren Corner, told fellow building tenants that he would "be the bad guy" and move anti-abortion signs with graphic images of fetuses on the sidewalk outside the building.
The police stood near Jackson Women's Health Organization, the last abortion clinic in Mississippi, on July 17 as Peters picked up each of the large portable signs and took them to his building's basement.
"It was horrible. If they would have had little signs like most of the locals have now ... we probably would have just let it ride, but these were horrible," Peters said. "Every 5 feet there was just another one, another one, another one."
Peters said an officer threatened him with arrest if he continued to take the anti-abortion group's property, but police declined to cuff or charge Peters with a crime as he quietly picked up the signs and put them in his building's basement as the anti-abortions questioned and filmed him.
"I'm not mad at you," Peters told the officer. "I know you've got to do whatever you've got to do. But I've got to do what I've got to do."
Yesterday, July 23, the Life Legal Defense Foundation filed a lawsuit for the anti-abortion activist group, Pro-Life Mississippi, against the Jackson Police Department.
The complaint, which was filed in federal court in Jackson this afternoon, alleges that JPD "has routinely harassed pro-life citizens, who have been peacefully exercising their legal right to oppose abortion in the public square and offer information about life-affirming alternatives to women seeking abortion."
The suit was filed one day after a pro-life group posted a video online of what they say are "Jackson police standing by as an individual stole the group's prolife display"—the protest Peters intervened in.
The group complains that the police did not stop Peters, even though the protesters got their signs back unharmed.
But the anti-abortion group who brought the signs, Created Equal, may have violated a city ordinance that prohibits portable signs like the ones placed on Fondren Corner's sidewalk last Thursday.
Peters told the Jackson Free Press that he believes JPD had orders from city hall not intervene with the illegally positioned signs. A call to Monica Joiner, the city attorney, was not immediately returned this morning.
"I think they knew that, 'Well, why should we arrest him for doing this, and yet we're letting them break the law, too? That's not right,'" Peters said.
Defendants named in the suit include former JPD Chief Lindsey Horton, whose retirement was announced Monday, July 21, Commander James McGowan and several other JPD officers. Shelia Byrd, city hall spokeswoman, declined comment, citing the pending litigation.
Meanwhile, the Created Equal video has gone viral, and Peters is still receiving obscene calls from anti-abortion activists across the nation.