Pro-life advocate sues Chicago for wrongful arrest and destroying footage that would have vindicated him
CHICAGO, April 14, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) – A national pro-life leader has sued the city of Chicago after he says security personnel falsely arrested him, held him in custody for hours, and destroyed a video of the incident that would have proved his innocence.
He suspects the ill-treatment is directly related to his pro-life views.
Eric Scheidler, the executive director of the Pro-Life Action League, said that he simply wanted to take a walk over Chicago's Navy Pier after a protest had ended last April 15.
Although he carried no signs and walked alone, he said that security initially barred him from walking.
“Are you telling me I can’t go to Navy Pier because I’m pro-life?” he asked.
Shortly after he received permission to proceed, Scheidler said, an officer demanded he hand over his identification or be arrested for trespassing.
Although it is often thought of as a public landmark, the Navy Pier is owned by the city but leased to, and operated by, Navy Pier Inc.
While trying to speak to his lawyers to clarify his rights – no one is required to have a photo ID, much less to present it to be on the premises – officers handcuffed and arrested him. His assistant, Matt Yonke, captured a few moments of Scheidler's arrest on video.
Officers confiscated a GoPro camera that Scheidler had fastened to his belt, which recorded the entire exchange with the officer and, Scheidler says, would have vindicated him in court.
His arresting officer told him, “If Navy Pier wants it erased, it will be erased,” he said.
After spending four hours in custody, he was told he was banned from the pier for life, Scheidler said.
His attorney, Peter Breen, confirmed to LifeSiteNews that the memory card was never returned.
Despite lacking video footage, Scheidler was acquitted of trespassing charges last August.
“This was a brazen and outrageous violation of Eric Scheidler’s personal liberties and civil rights,” said Tom Brejcha, the president and chief counsel for the Thomas More Society.
“He was arrested, jailed, and had his belongings confiscated on charges that were patently false and fabricated,” Brejcha said. “Evidence proving his innocence of criminal trespass charges was maliciously destroyed, while those sworn to uphold the law either ignored or, worse, actually partook in the suppression of that evidence.”
Scheidler and his attorneys filed a federal civil rights lawsuit yesterday against Chicago’s Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority, naming the security director and a Chicago police officer involved in the arrest.
The arrest, Scheidler said, was the first time he had ever been arrested during his decades of pro-life activism. He said police had arrested his father, Joe Scheidler, 13 times.
Ironically, the group was at the pier to protest a Planned Parenthood fundraiser honoring Fay Clayton, the lead attorney in the National Organization for Women's decades-long legal case against Joe Scheidler. Filed in 1986, the 28-year-long NOW v. Scheidler lawsuit was finally settled in Scheidler's favor last year.
The younger Scheidler's attorneys say they are filing this lawsuit to prevent additional legal encroachments against the pro-life message.
Brejcha said, “We cannot permit this flagrant violation of a citizen’s civil rights to go unchallenged, lest others suffer similar wrongs on the part of those whom we entrust with the critical mission of keeping civil order in accordance with law.”