Law-enforcement officers on the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco demanded that a pair of college students walking across the structure as part of a demonstration remove their pro-life T-shirts or be subject to a fine and jail time.
“Our walkers’ free-speech rights have been stifled by the bridge patrol,” said Adam Redmon, director of Crossroads. “Officers ordered our team members – who were wearing pro-life T-shirts – to remove their shirts. America is pro-life, and pro-life Americans should not be targeted for discrimination – especially in the San Francisco Bay area, where the right to free expression is held in high regard.”
Crossroads’ annual walk, in which pro-life students walk across the country, began on Monday. According to the organization, the participants “pray at abortion facilities, speak at churches and host town hall meetings to educate the public about abortion.”
Leaving San Francisco and heading to Toronto on Monday, the walkers approached the Golden Gate Bridge. As they crossed, officers from the Golden Gate District stopped them and told them their shirts were not allowed on the bridge. On the front, the T-shirts read “Pro-Life.” An American flag is featured on the back.
According to Crossroads, the walkers were informed that the pro-life shirts are a form of political protest and that if they didn’t remove the clothing, they could be punished with a $10,000 fine and a year in jail.
Redmon told WorldNetDaily that the officers told the students their walking was a distraction to traffic on the bridge. But to communicate their demand to the walkers, he said, the policemen “had to stop traffic.”
“The officers were very insistent” about the need to remove the shirts, Redmon said.
The two students who were stopped complied with the officers’ demand to remove their shirts. Three others were faster walkers and thus reached the opposite side without being stopped. Redmon was unsure what other clothing the students had available besides the T-shirts.
Kary Witt, bridge manager of the Golden Gate District, has apologized for the incident.
“It should not have happened,” he told WND. “One officer got way overzealous.”
Witt said a representative from the San Francisco Catholic Diocese contacted him to complain and that he offered the district’s apology.
“I have briefed all our officers on it,” he said, to ensure that a similar incident doesn’t happen again.
Witt says the same college students were on the bridge on Saturday and unfurled a banner, which is prohibited without a permit. One of the officers was aware of the action on Saturday and, said Witt, “feared they were going to unfurl the banner again.”
The students carried a three-foot statue of Mary with them, but it was the shirts that the officers objected to.
According to Redmon, there have been over 25 cases this year alone where public high-school students have been told not to wear pro-life shirts to school.
“This is a disturbing trend,” Redmon said. “We have contacted our lawyers about the incident on the Golden Gate Bridge. We want to right this wrong before others are subjected to the discriminatory whim of the bridge patrol.”
Witt hoped to contact Crossroads to head off any legal action against his agency.