UCalgary anti-abortion protesters charged with trespassing

Group defied university request to turn graphic images inwards; three charged

The CBC is reporting that several students who took part in a graphic anti-abortion display at the University of Calgary have been charged with trespassing.

According to the students’ lawyer, members of the University of Calgary Campus Pro-Life group have to enter a plea by the end of the month and can expect a trial later in 2009.

“The university is created by legislation, governed by legislation and receives more than 60 per cent of its funding from taxpayers,” said Canadian Constitution Foundation executive director John Carpay in a press release. “As a public institution, it does not have the right to discriminate against one group of students by censoring one viewpoint on an issue.”

President of the anti-abortion group Leah Hallman says three students have been served legal papers, and she expects three more will be served.

According to the Calgary Herald, the pro-life group and university administrators have been locked in an ongoing battle over the group’s Genocide Awareness Project display, which juxtaposes images of dead fetuses with Holocaust or Rwandan genocide victims.

On Nov. 26, after being asked by the university to turn the graphic images inwards to protect those who didn’t want to see them, the group erected their display with the posters facing outwards.

In a letter to the students before the rally, the university warned that they would consider the students to be trespassing and that they would be subject to arrest, fines, suspension or expulsion if their protest went ahead as planned.

The university also put up signs warning students and staff about the “extremely graphic” poster display.

Hallman says they were aware of the possibility of legal action after they went against the university’s warning, but that the decision to charge members of their group is both surprising and disappointing.