HIGHLAND HEIGHTS, Kentucky, April 12, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) - A group of youths arrested and charged with vandalizing a Kentucky pro-life campus display said that destroying the display was an expression of their “right to free speech.”

Pro-life leaders of Northern Right to Life at Northern Kentucky University (NKU) say they first set up the display on Monday morning. It consisted of tiny onesies hanging on a line with red “X” taped onto every fourth outfit to symbolize a life lost to abortion. The display included a sign explaining its significance and citing the Guttmacher Institute.

But after the display was torn down twice within the first two days, members of the pro-life group began taking night shifts to watch for the vandals. On Friday morning around 1am, they say they spotted four young men beginning to cut down the line and throwing the clothing, which was to be donated to needy local children, in the trash.

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“When the perps realized that they had been seen, they started running. Too bad for them, one of the students guarding the display is in great shape and was able to chase them half way across the campus (Yelling ‘Run you cowaaarrrds’),” reported Northern Right to Life president Sarah Piron via an email message from Students for Life of America.

“Thankfully it didn’t take long for the campus police to respond, and our vandals were caught.”

Both Piron and the Kentucky Post report that the three suspects police caught - Travis Black, Steven White and Montez Jenkins Copeland - have been charged with Criminal Mischief. 

“Though the vandals don’t think they deserve to be faced with consequences, we at NRTL believe that it’s important for people to understand that they cannot just rip down a display simply because they disagree with its message,” said Piron.

A fourth suspect who had turned himself in, Kyle Pickett, agreed with pro-lifers that they had a right to display the clothing as free speech - but justified the vandalism as equally protected.

“Tearing it down was expressing our right to free speech,” he said, according to the Post.

Piron said that, in any event, the vandals’ attempt at silencing the display has backfired: the pro-lifers have fueled campus discussions with their own Internet images poking fun at the attempted vandalism.

“The joke is really on them. They were trying to silence our message, but all they really did was start a buzz on campus about the issues of abortion and free speech,” said Piron.