MILWAUKEE — At least four police cruisers with the Milwaukee Police Department showed up on Wednesday to tell seven people gathered outside of the local Planned Parenthood to reach abortive mothers — which was reportedly still open in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic — to disperse under threat of arrest due to a “Safer at Home” order issued by Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers.
A Facebook video, which was streamed live, shows the interaction that took place outside of Planned Parenthood that day. It began as two officers approached those on the sidewalk to state that pursuant to a stay-at-home order from the governor, they are supposed to be at home.
“This morning, as of 8 a.m., unless you’re walking, biking or running, you’re supposed to be at home,” one officer, who identified himself as Officer Heder, states. “… This is not an essential gathering.”
A.B. Herron, a former assistant pastor who now leads Tarry One Hour Ministry, steps forward and explains that he understands — as per advice from his attorney — that as long as there are no more than 10 people, churches and faith-based groups have a right under the law to gather. He shows Heder the governor’s order on his phone.
“People in this country have a right to murder their children. We understand that. But at the same time, the God that we worship calls us to try to stand in the gap and plead for their lives,” the pastor outlines.
The police soon depart but advise the few to remain six feet apart and to ensure that the gathering is not more than 10 people. However, the officers return minutes later after speaking with a supervisor and state that they were told that any groups must be inside and not in public.
As Herron contends that the interpretation of the order is incorrect, a supervisor is therefore dispatched.
Soon, a total of at least four police cars and eight officers are at the scene.
“If this place were shut down right here, we wouldn’t be here,” Nicholas Heald explains to one of the officers. “But the governor has decided not to shut it down and he’ll answer to God for that.”
The officer suggests that they contact the governor to ask why he thinks such facilities are essential.
“God’s got something worse if we don’t repent of these sins. We’ve got to stop killing babies,” Heron declares as he begins preaching to the officers. “If we don’t stop sinning as a nation, we all are doomed. … We are trying to turn this nation back to God. ”
Ever’s “Safer at Home” order includes the following exemptions: “Religious facilities, entities, groups, and gatherings, and weddings and funerals, except that any gathering shall include fewer than 10 people in a room or confined space at a time and individuals shall adhere to Social Distancing Requirements as much as possible.”
Anne Franczek, one of the seven that stood on the sidewalk outside Planned Parenthood, confirmed to Christian News Network that the facility was indeed still open and operating, and that women were going inside. Ever’s order states that “[n]on-essential business and operations must cease” but exempts “ambulatory surgery centers for response to urgent health issues.”
As previously reported, abortion advocacy groups have argued that abortion is “essential” and “time-sensitive,” and therefore, most facilities have refused to close during the crisis.
Supervisor Sgt. Todd Smolen, who came with a printout of Ever’s order, said that the text “makes no provision for protests” and that religious practices pertain to those inside of a room. He asked those on the sidewalk to disperse.
“What will happen if we don’t disperse?” one of the seven asks.
“Well, then you will end up having to be arrested,” Smolen replies.
One woman requests clarification, noting that she is simply holding a sign that states that she is offering free childcare and that she wouldn’t classify her activity as a protest. Smolen repeats the directive to disperse, stating, “I’m asking you to follow our legal, lawful order at this time.”
Franczek told Christian News that police in District One have had no problem with their outreach as long as they stay six feet away from anyone entering, but police in District Two continue to threaten arrest.
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4/1/2020: This report has been updated to correct the number of people on the sidewalk from six to seven.