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WESTLAND, Mich. (ChurchMilitant.com) - A pro-life Michigan woman is suing for unlawful arrest and false imprisonment.
The American Life Center (AFLC) and the Thomas More Law Center of Chicago are filing a complaint against the Northland Family Planning Clinic (NFPC), security guards, police officers and the city of Westland for the unlawful arrest and false imprisonment of pro-life advocate Kimberley Thames.
The complaint outlines the events of August 27, 2016, and alleges egregious violations of her civil rights.
She and a nun were praying outside the Northland abortion mill carrying only a sign and her rosary. An NFPC employee and a security guard called 911 and claimed she was threatening to bomb the facility.
When officers arrived, one of the NFPC employees — named in the complaint "Defendant Guilbernat" — told police she took a picture of Thames' license plate and "ran it," reportedly confirming she had threatened to bomb the abortion mill. She then urged the security guard to tell police Thames said, "I prophesy bombs are going to fall, I prophesy bombs are going to fall."
The nun told police Thames didn't threaten anybody and that the NFPC employee was lying, but one of the officers shot back, "You have no idea what you are talking about."
Another officer commented, "Anyone who has anything to do with the whole thing [referring to the pro-life movement] is a fanatic."
Even though the employee and the officers admitted they only found a sign and a Rosary in Thames' possession, she was arrested. The court document notes another officer tried to intimidate her by his "presence and demeanor."
When she questioned an officer in the car as to why she was being arrested, he told her, "I already told you you're going to jail for terrorist threats. Have a seat; I have gun."
She sobbed throughout the ride to jail and the incarceration process at the Westland city jail. She was put in a concrete holding cell with other prisoners and was told a detective would be arriving to take her statement and figure out what happened. She was not given a phone call and didn't even know if anybody knew where she was.
The complaint documents, "Saturday morning turned into the afternoon, which turned into the evening. No detective arrived, despite repeated assurances by the City jailers that the detective would be arriving soon."
It continues, "Throughout the night, the City jailers paraded various criminals in and out of the same holding cell. Most of them were promptly released, but not [Thames]."
There was no restroom and only a dirty toilet in the corner of the cell, with no privacy. She tried to use a stale cinnamon bun as a pillow but was unable to sleep on the cold cement slab.
All day Sunday, jailers told her the detective would be in soon but he never arrived. She languished in the public cell sobbing and unable to sleep.
On Monday she was taken out of the cell in handcuffs and finally met with a detective. The complaint notes that before the interrogation began the detective insisted she sign a "waiver of rights" form, telling her that if she insisted on contacting an attorney she would be in jail even longer. Broken down with "pain and anguish" from her experience, she opted to sign the document.
After reviewing the security guard's statement, the detective said, "I do not see a direct threat where [Thames] threatened to bomb the clinic." She was released and had to walk over a mile from the police station to her car.
The NFPC Executive Director Renee Chelian commented on Facebook the day Thames was arrested:
I want to share this because this morning started at one of our clinics with a woman threatening to bomb us. The police arrested her while a local Catholic nun kept screaming at the police we are the ones to be arrested. Please keep ALL Reproductive Health Care Workers in your prayers as this is what we live with daily.
AFLC Senior Counsel Robert Muise commented:
The City of Westland and its police officers committed the most egregious violation of a private citizen's civil rights I have witnessed in the nearly 20 years I have been litigating civil rights cases. The pain, suffering and humiliation Ms. Thames endured at the hands of these city officials is shocking to the conscience. And Ms. Thames' unlawful arrest and false imprisonment were instigated, directed and encouraged by Northland and its agents. We intend to hold all parties liable for this injustice.
Chelian and the Northland Family Planning Clinic made headlines in 2015 when she was caught on camera joking about having five months of fetal remains in rented freezers.
"I was so consumed with fetal tissue that I was ready to drive to upper Michigan to have a bonfire," Chelian said. "And it was just trying to figure out, you know, how I wouldn't get stopped or how far into the woods would I have to go to have this fire that nobody would see me."