Above is a “blast from the past” — a video of my friend, Graham Dugas, being arrested for violating an abortion clinic “buffer zone.” The irony of this is that I owned the house across the street. Graham was my roommate and our mailbox was located withing the 36-foot buffer zone.
The full article on this written by Meredith Raney is here:
Before the abortion clinic closed for good in 2000, there was much protest activity on the public property around the Aware Woman Center for Choice in Melbourne, Florida.
In 1993, Judge McGregor issued an injunction against three organizations and six individuals and all persons “acting in concert” with them. This injunction requires these respondents to stay outside of a 36 foot buffer zone created on public property.
- In 1993, 104 people, none of them named on the injunction, were convicted of violating this injunction. These trials were before a judge who was brought out of retirement from north Florida just for these trials. He was not accountable to the citizens of Brevard county. Also, no jury trial was allowed. All 104 defendants believe that they were unjustly convicted. They were on public property where they had every right to be as members of the public. No judge had ever told them to stay out of the buffer zone.
- In the Madsen case in June of 1994, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the 36-foot buffer zone part of the injunction as it applies to named parties. Since no non-parties were plaintiffs in the case, no ruling was made about the “in concert” clause.
- In the Alf case in the fall of 1995, the U.S. Supreme court refused to hear the case of the 104 non-parties even though it had basically invited this case in the opinion written in the Madsen case. The Supreme Court has refused to give a clear, definitive ruling on the “in concert” part of this injunction.
- After June 1994, there were over 20 injunction violation charges made by the Melbourne Police Department. Not one of these cases was brought to trial. They were all dismissed.
At some point, arrest with the knowledge that there will be no prosecution becomes harassment. Being dragged off to jail, having to post bond, and then having to show up for as many as nine court dates over a period of nine months, as in one defendant’s case, just to see the charges dropped is harassment. This is unconstitutional. The sixth amendment to our Constitution guarantees that the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy trial and to be confronted with the witnesses against him.
After two years of court battles and over 20 individual arrests, pro-lifers were able to take back the buffer zone. Graham Dugas, who lives across the street from the Aware Woman Abortuary and its infamous 36-foot buffer zone, took the buffer zone back on Saturday, May 11, 1996. On the previous Thursday, Dugas had successfully defended himself in Court on a buffer zone violation charge. On May 11, he went back into the zone using the same props with the court evidence tags still attached. He was carrying a pro-life sign and the transmitting half of a baby monitor being used as a disposable remote microphone to pick up audio for the video camera when he was previously arrested. He was immediately warned again at which time he left the buffer zone and asked to speak to a supervisor. A lieutenant came out and after some discussion, withdrew the warning. Dugas then went back into the buffer zone and waved everyone over.
About 30 people walked, prayed and picketed in the buffer zone freely for the first time in three years.
Sidewalk counseling took place on the sidewalk again for the first time in almost two years. When Christians pray and counsel women from sidewalks in front of abortion clinics more women are dissuaded from having their babies aborted than when people are not allowed to come within these unconstitutional “buffer zones.”
- Meredith Raney
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