September/October, 1997 Volume XII Number 8
Tryranny "alive and well" say pro-life missionaries
Delavan, WI -- Jim Sweatt is a street preacher. When he joined the multi-state Freedom Tour with the Milwaukee, Wisconsin Missionaries to the Preborn (MTP), he continued his calling.
The Freedom Tour, in its second year, consists of pro-life activists who hold large posters of aborted babies in small towns in the Wisconsin and other states (see News Notes). One of the Freedom Tour stops was tiny Delavan, Wisconsin.
On Friday, August 1, more than 90 Freedom Tour participants were in place along the highway at Delavan. At about 11:00 a.m. one Lt. Gregory Strohm of the Delavan Police arrested Sweatt.
Sweatt had been preaching the gospel along the row of Freedom Tour signs and calling the town -- and Strohm -- to repentance for his mockery of God.
An angry Lt. Strohm told Sweatt that he "was going down." Sweatt informed Strohm that that's what God would say to the police officer on the day of judgment if he did not repent.
Strohm grabbed Sweatt, a missionary with MTP, pulled, then slammed him up against the hood of a car and handcuffed him and put him in the back of a police car. Strohm claimed that Sweatt's actions _ and those of all the other Freedom Tour participants, violated a local ordinance.
Up to this time, Strohm had never identified himself as a police officer. He was wearing a purple colored suit jacket and Sweatt said he thought Strohm was a car salesman from a nearby dealership. Strohm has since, in phone conversations with other media, said, "We never intended to arrest him."
Matt Trewhella, MTP director, told police that the Freedom Tour participants would refuse to leave the roadside until Sweatt was released.
The City attorney in Delavan, Bob Mahoney, called in the Walworth County Sheriff's Department.
He said, "We have room in the jail and we'll arrest every man woman and child off the streets."
There were approximately 90 people on the street that day, about 20 children, many under seven years old, and approximately 40 were women. The Sheriff's Department soon appeared with paddy wagons.
Police were notified that this was a First Amendments rights issue and if they had such an ordinance, as Strohm referred to, then it was unconstitutional. Lt. Strohm refused to give the number of the ordinance he claimed made the missionaries actions unlawful.
All the local police, except two officers, mocked God and the religious beliefs of the Freedom Tour picketers. Some of the officers said they were personally offended and had "decided" that the signs were offensive and needed to be removed from the street because "they said so."
MTP leadership continued to say that they would not leave until Sweatt was released.
"Christians don't leave their wounded behind," they said.
The police finally relented and released Sweatt with a citation for "disorderly conduct" without even taking Sweatt downtown for booking.
"This is one sign that they knew they were wrong," said one missionary. "We Christians cannot let such absolute tyranny go unchecked."
As many as 500 to 1000 pro-life Christians plan to return for Sweatt's arraignment and trial bringing more pictures of the dead babies to show to the people and police of Delavan, MTP leaders said.
Copyright © 1997 Advocates for Life Ministries