In a suit filed in federal court in Charlotte, N.C., the leader of a group of Charlotte abortion protesters accused the city and Mecklenburg County of what he called “targeted,” wrongful arrests, according to WBTV 3.
North Carolina’s coronavirus-related ban on mass gatherings was the excuse, the April 18 lawsuit charges.
David Benham said the group complied with coronavirus social distancing measures during its April 4 protest outside A Preferred Women’s Health Center in Charlotte.
Benham said police disregarded the protesters’ First Amendment rights to speech and religious exercise, according to the suit. A city spokesman declined comment, saying the city attorney’s office likely has not seen the filing.
Police charged eight protesters April 4 with breaking North Carolina’s virus-related ban on gatherings, The Charlotte Observer previously reported.
The arrests went national that night when U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas criticized Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police.
“This is an unconstitutional arrest,” Cruz, a runner-up for the Republican presidential nomination in the 2016 election, tweeted. “@BenhamBrothers exercising core First Amendment rights. PEACEFULLY. In a way fully consistent w/ public safety. Because elected Dems are pro-abortion, they are abusing their power – in a one-sided way – to silence pregnancy counselors.”
About 50 protesters had convened outside the clinic, police said in a news release the day of the arrests. The center has been the scene of numerous abortion protests over the years.
That size crowd violates the mass gatherings provision in the state’s stay-at-home order, police said, so officers broke it up, the Observer reported.