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‘Defend Life’ Protesters Reach Settlement With Police

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BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Pro-life demonstrators arrested during a protest settle with the state and announce another demonstration this summer.

Political reporter Pat Warren has more on the controversial “Defend Life” movement in Maryland.

In 2008, Defend Life demonstrators holding graphic posters of aborted fetuses were arrested on Route 24 in Bel Air.

“It was just a very unreal, sort of overwhelming experience. I couldn’t believe that it happened,” said Angela Swagler.

Drivers disturbed by the posters alerted state police. Eighteen people were arrested and 10 were held overnight. Charges were dropped and the group sued. Last month, the Board of Public Works approved a $385,000 out-of-court settlement.

Defend Life held a news conference Monday.

“The good news is the First Amendment and the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution of the United States’ Bill of Rights still stands here in Maryland,” said Jack Ames, Defend Life.

State police say troopers acted in the interest of public safety.

“The troopers were concerned about public safety because the motorists say it was impacting them and their children and there was concern for that, but at the same time, we certainly do have to balance First Amendment rights and again, that’s what our troopers are being reminded is our duty to do and that’s what we’re going to do,” said Greg Shipley.

Defend Life continues using the posters.

“It should be used sparingly and with warnings. That was the case here with Defend Life,” said Tom Brejcha.

State police say the settlement is in no way an admission of guilt or wrongdoing on the part of state troopers.

The settlement also requires trooper training in First Amendment rights to free speech and assembly.

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