CHEYENNE, Wyoming — An anti-abortion protester has sued the town of Jackson, saying it violated his rights when police arrested him as he preached on the town square in 2011.
Mark Holick, a pastor with the Kansas-based Spirit One Christian Center, filed suit in federal court in Cheyenne against the town and two of its police officers Thursday. Holick and Spirit One are seeking unspecified damages, alleging the arrest violated their civil rights.
Protesters with Operation Save America targeted Jackson two years ago because a doctor there had acknowledged performing abortions.
Holick's arrest came shortly after Jackson secured a state court order barring anti-abortion protesters from appearing on the town square. Protesters stationed themselves around the town, displaying pictures including some showing aborted fetuses.
The protest happened the same weekend as an auction of elk antlers that had been collected by Boy Scouts.
The Wyoming Supreme Court ruled last year that the court order banning anti-abortion protesters from the town square violated the rights of protesters, who weren't alerted in advance that the town had requested it.
"Assuming the town had established a compelling interest in the protection of its youth and in maintaining the peace, we would nonetheless find the temporary restraining order unconstitutional," Justice Michael Golden wrote in the majority court opinion issued last year.
Jackson Administrator Bob McLaurin said Friday the town had not yet been served with Holick's lawsuit.
"We were enforcing an order of the district court, and that's the only comment I'm going to have," McLaurin said. "We did ask for it, and it was granted, so we were carrying out the order of the court."
Etna lawyer Jack Edwards, who represents Holick and Spirit One, said Friday the complaint speaks for itself. He also represented Operation Save America before the Wyoming Supreme Court.
Holick's lawsuit states he didn't violate the court order by showing anti-abortion photos while he was preaching on the town square. But it states police later falsely claimed he had displayed such photos to the crowd.
Rusty Thomas, a spokesman for Operation Save America in Texas, said Friday it was clear to everyone involved in the 2011 protest that Jackson had violated protesters' rights.
"They had indeed denied constitutional rights here, and of course the Supreme Court confirmed that in a very powerful and dramatic way," Thomas said.
Thomas said the group doesn't intend to stage a protest in Jackson this year. He said it's focusing its anti-abortion efforts on Arkansas, Mississippi, North Dakota and South Dakota. "They're very close to be becoming abortion-free," he said.