Court asked to reconsider decision on protesters' arrest

Sunday, August 8, 2004

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- A conservative advocacy group is asking a federal appeals court to reconsider a decision that upheld the arrests of five abortion opponents.

In a petition filed Friday, the American Center for Law and Justice asked for the full court to reconsider last month's 2-1 ruling from a panel of the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Kansas City police officers asked a group of protesters to move on June 23, 2001, after several motorists complained about the large color photographs of aborted fetuses they were displaying near a busy intersection. The officers said the protesters were causing a traffic hazard.

When the protesters refused to move the signs, five of them were charged under the city's loitering ordinance. The charges were later dropped, but the protesters sued the police department, alleging infringement of their First Amendment rights.

A U.S. District Court rejected their challenge, a decision the 8th Circuit panel upheld on appeal.

"The decision that now stands empowers police to take action that quashes the constitutional rights of demonstrators if someone objects to their message and that is very troubling," said Francis J. Manion, the group's senior counsel, in a statement.

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