Amid National Media Blitz, Chicago Drops Charges Against First “Bubble Zone” Arrestee Joe Holland

For Immediate Release

Joe HollandChicago—This afternoon, in a wake of national interest in the case, the Thomas More Society secured a dismissal of all charges against the first arrestee under the city’s “bubble zone” ordinance, which prevents certain types of picketing activity outside local abortion clinics. Joseph Holland, a Northwestern University graduate student, was arrested outside Planned Parenthood’s Near North Side facility on July 3 after the facility’s staff called the police and claimed he violated the ordinance by praying on the public sidewalk.

“We are pleased that the City of Chicago has dismissed these false and baseless charges against Joe Holland,” said Peter Breen, Thomas More Society executive director and legal counsel. “The First Amendment protects prayer on a public sidewalk in Chicago the same as in any other city in the country. We hope that the city will cease the suppression of pro-life speech under the ‘bubble zone’ ordinance and dismiss the lone remaining case, brought against David Avignone, who was arrested a few days after Joe.”

The “bubble zone” ordinance prohibits approaching within eight feet of a person without consent “for the purpose of passing a leaflet or handbill to, displaying a sign to, or engaging in oral protest, education, or counseling.” Witnesses and a video of the incident showed Holland standing stationary and praying, but not leafleting, picketing or sidewalk counseling.

Thomas More Society attorneys are also representing David Avignone, the second arrestee under the “bubble zone” ordinance, who was arrested the same week as Holland. Avignone’s first court appearance is August 13 at 1 p.m.