Nevada reverend, anti-abortion group sue Wyoming town of Jackson over arrest at 2011 protest

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CHEYENNE, Wyoming — A Nevada reverend and an anti-abortion group filed a civil rights lawsuit against the town of Jackson, claiming his civil rights were violated when police arrested him during a 2011 protest on the town square.

The Rev. Chester E. Gallagher of Las Vegas and Operation Save America filed the suit Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Cheyenne. They name the town and former police Lt. Robert Gilliam as defendants.

Jackson police arrested Gallagher after town officials secured a state court order barring him and other protesters from appearing on the town square. Their 2011 abortion protest was the same weekend as a Boy Scout auction of elk antlers.

The town and other entities last year paid $225,000 to settle an earlier federal lawsuit filed by Mark Holick, a pastor with Spirit One Christian Ministries in Wichita, Kansas. who also was arrested at the 2011 protest.

Lawyer Jack Edwards is representing Gallagher and Operation Save America after representing Holick.

Edwards said Thursday that he sees important constitutional principles at stake. When people expose views that others may find offensive, "that's the time when law enforcement has to go out there and protect these people, and protect their rights to voice their opinions in the marketplace," he said.

The anti-abortion protesters who came to Jackson in 2011 had stationed themselves around the town and displayed pictures, including some showing aborted fetuses. The protesters had targeted Jackson because a physician there was the only one in the state who had been open about his willingness to perform abortions as part of his medical practice.

The Wyoming Supreme Court ruled in 2012 that the lower court order banning anti-abortion protesters from the town square violated protesters' rights. The protesters weren't alerted in advance that the town had requested the court order.

"I really have a hard time seeing how they can defend against the unconstitutional actions of the Jackson Police Department in May of 2011," Edwards said.

A receptionist for Audrey Cohen-Davis, lawyer for the town of Jackson, said she wasn't available for comment. A receptionist at the police department said Gilliam had retired and is no longer living in the area.

In an interview last year, Cohen-Davis said she was not aware of any change in town policies as a result of Holick's federal lawsuit. She said anti-abortion protesters got a permit to be on the town square the year after their initial visit.

Cohen-Davis said last year the town's action to settle Holick's lawsuit was the result of a business decision by its insurance carrier.

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