Pro-life activists in San Francisco say they are being unlawfully silenced for speaking out about a local research university's use of aborted babies for publicly funded research.
What are the details?
The group of activists were reportedly arrested and charged for trespassing despite peacefully demonstrating on a public sidewalk outside the University of California San Francisco's Zuckerberg Hospital last month, the Federalist reported.
Video footage from the event posted on YouTube by Pro-Life San Francisco appears to show the protesters being arrested by police before they ever stepped foot off public property. Only after being detained and physically moved by officers did the protesters cross onto hospital grounds.
Pro-Lifers Arrested Outside UCSF's Fetal Harvesting Facility youtu.be
"Our position is that this is an unlawful arrest, as the pro-lifers were engaged in constitutionally protected speech on a public sidewalk," Alexandra Snyder, executive director of Life Legal Defense Foundation, the organization representing the protesters, said in a statement to the Federalist.
Martin Cannon, senior counsel for the Thomas More Society, who is representing one of the activists, Terrisa Bukovinac, argued his client was "arrested ... on a sidewalk, basically just for showing up."
"She did not have a megaphone, she wasn't calling out at all. She didn't even have a sign. They arrested her for being within an area that the hospital arbitrarily declared was too close to the entrance," Cannon added of Bukovinac, who serves as the executive director if Pro-Life San Francisco.
"The problem here is that they got arrested, when they made no noise. They got arrested for showing up because the cops are thinking they might make some noise," Cannon said. "They got arrested anticipatorily."
The attorneys representing the activists argue that the actions taken against their clients unlawfully injured their free speech and point to a double standard among law enforcement.
"This appears to be an attempt to suppress the dissemination of information in order to protect UCSF," Snyder said.
Cannon added, "The same people that will let the protesters bash windows and burn buildings and steal everybody's inventory and call it 'lawful protest — we can't do anything,' will respond where there's half a dozen pro-lifers on the sidewalk and start building constraints against them."
The pro-life activists were protesting against the research hospital's use of aborted fetuses for publicly funded experimental studies, according to the Federalist. The hospital reportedly has a long history of using the tissue of aborted babies for research studies, "including some in which fetal intestines and reproductive tracts were transplanted into rodents," the outlet added.
In September 2018, the Health and Human Services department even canceled a contract between UCSF and the National Institutes of Health that provided researchers with two fetuses a month for six years.
TheBlaze reached out to the the San Francisco Sheriff's Department for comment, and the department's public information officer replied with the following statement: "On November 17, 2020, Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital Administrators determined that four people were trespassing upon private property. San Francisco Sheriff's deputies issued warnings to the individuals and cited them when they did not leave."
Editor's Note: This article has been updated to include a response from the San Francisco Sheriff's Department.