Local police ask for protests to remain orderly after abortion ruling

Cities to increase patrols around houses of worship

There were no vigils or protests outside La Salle County government offices in the immediate aftermath of Friday’s historic Supreme Court abortion ruling.

Police and prosecutors issued appeals for orderly demonstrations if groups should gather outside courthouses and advocacy centers. Ottawa Police Chief Brent Roalson said he hopes those who participate will do so “in a safe and law-abiding manner.”

“We have worked with past organizers of demonstrations/protests to ensure they are done in a safe manner,” Roalson said, encouraging organizers to contact and coordinate with his office. “The Ottawa Police Department will continue to do so.

“I understand that this ruling has and will draw passionate and emotional responses,” he said. “I would ask that these responses remain peaceful when expressing themselves and when dealing with those who may not share your opinion.”

The May leak of the Supreme Court’s abortion ruling did not spark violence locally and police chiefs expressed hope Friday the public reaction is similarly constrained this time around. Nonetheless, local police are taking precautions.

Peru Police Chief Bob Pyszka said he immediately reached out to patrol officers and told them to drive past churches during each shift.

“I have already added houses of worship to the ‘active watch list’ and my officers have been directed to keep an extra eye peeled for the next several weeks,” Pyszka said.

La Salle County Sheriff Adam Diss issued similar directives and said his deputies would be available to assist at any demonstrations that crop up.

“Citizens of course have a right to agree or disagree with the judiciary, but 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 will lend aid to any of our communities in need.”

Roalson said he, too, directed officers to “specifically focus on the areas where there are houses of worship, centers that are focused on the pro-life movement as well as those focused and established in the pro-choice movement.”

One local pastor said he was grateful to the police for the extra vigilance but prayed it wouldn’t be necessary.

The Very Rev. Tom Otto, pastor of the La Salle Catholic Parishes, said he hoped people would listen to their “better angels” and respond within reason. To those who won’t, Otto noted churches typically have surveillance systems to catch any mischief.

“We certainly have plenty of cameras here in La Salle,” Otto said. “If anything happens, it will be recorded and turned over to the police so the perpetrators can be prosecuted.”

La Salle County State’s Attorney Todd Martin said demonstrations conducted locally have been peaceful and his office was not alerted to any vandalism following the leaked abortion draft. He appealed to the public to keep it that way.

“We encourage these demonstrations regardless of whether we agree or disagree with the message,” Martin said. “However damaging someone else’s property is not and will not be tolerated no matter what the cause.”