There were no vigils or protests outside La Salle County government offices in the aftermath of Friday’s landmark Supreme Court ruling on abortion.
Police and prosecutors issued calls for orderly protests if groups were to gather outside courthouses and advocacy centers. Ottawa Police Chief Brent Roalson said he hopes those who participate do so “in a safe and law-abiding manner.”
“We have worked with former protest/demonstration organizers to ensure they are conducted in a safe manner,” Roalson said, encouraging organizers to contact and coordinate with his office. “The Ottawa Police Service will continue to do so.
“I understand that this decision has and will elicit passionate and emotional reactions,” he said. “I would ask that these responses remain peaceful when speaking and when dealing with those who may not share your opinion.”
May’s leak of the Supreme Court’s decision on abortion did not spark local violence, and police chiefs expressed hope on Friday that public reaction would also be limited this time around. Nevertheless, the local police are taking precautions.
Peruvian Police Chief Bob Pyszka said he immediately contacted patrol officers and told them to pass churches every shift.
“I have already added places of worship to the ‘active watch list’ and my officers have been instructed to keep an extra eye open for the next few weeks,” Pyszka said.
La Salle County Sheriff Adam Diss issued similar guidelines and said his deputies would be available to attend any protests that arise.
“Citizens of course have the right to agree or disagree with the judiciary, but they do not have the right to behave violently or commit acts of vandalism,” Diss said. “The La Salle County Sheriff’s Office will increase patrols in areas of concern and provide assistance to all of our communities in need.”
Roalson said he, too, ordered officers to “focus specifically on areas with places of worship, centers focused on the pro-life movement as well as those targeted and established in the pro-choice movement.”
A local pastor said he was grateful to the police for their extra vigilance, but prayed it was not needed.
The Very Reverend Tom Otto, pastor of Catholic parishes in La Salle, said he hoped people would listen to their “better angels” and respond within reason. For those who won’t, Otto noted that churches usually have surveillance systems to detect any wrongdoing.
“We certainly have a lot of cameras here at La Salle,” Otto said. “If anything happens it will be recorded and handed over to the police so the perpetrators can be prosecuted.”
La Salle County State’s Attorney Todd Martin said the locally-led protests had been peaceful and his office had not been alerted to any vandalism following the abortion project leak. He appealed to the public to keep it that way.
“We encourage these protests whether or not we agree with the message,” Martin said. “However, damaging someone else’s property is not and will not be tolerated, regardless of the cause.”