Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals upheld city court conviction of woman demonstrating outside abortion clinic, saying her actions exceeded the limits of a special events permit obtained by the group of Huntsville who regularly opposes abortions.
Meri Church was convicted of second degree criminal harassment by Huntsville City Court last year. She was fined $ 100 plus court costs. She appealed against her conviction directly to the Criminal Appeal Court.
Judge Elizabeth Kellum drafted the opinion affirming the lower court’s conviction and the other four judges in the court agreed with that opinion.
The incidents in question took place over several weeks in 2020 outside the Alabama Women’s Center on Sparkman Drive in Huntsville. Church has been charged with criminal harassment for harassing employees and clients of Holloway & Associates, a real estate and property management company located next to the women’s clinic.
According to the appeals court ruling, business owner and operator Andrea Karnice Holloway said she saw Church stand on the sidewalk outside her business six to eight times. Church was among at least five protesters who stood outside Holloway’s business instead of the women’s clinic.
By harassing Holloway employees and customers, Holloway told the lawsuit that Church would tell people that Holloway’s business was associated with the women’s clinic. Holloway said it wasn’t true.
At trial, Holloway said Church would tell employees and customers that Holloway’s business “was in cahoots with baby killers” and discouraged people from doing business with Holloway’s business. Church was also shouting and shouting inappropriate comments at those in the Holloway parking lot, Holloway said.
Holloway had started calling the police in the summer of 2019 – before Church started protesting the women’s clinic – about people standing on the sidewalk outside his business.
Two other witnesses at the trial said protesters outside Holloway’s business could be heard inside the business and were disruptive.
At trial, the city of Huntsville presented video tapes of the church and in one of these videos, “the church agreed with another protester as the protester explained that it was important to target businesses around the (women’s clinic) because “if life gets tough for those around (the clinic) it puts more pressure on the clinic,” Justice Kellum wrote in her conclusion.
Church called six witnesses at the trial and also testified. She testified that Holloway twice acted as if she was going to run over Church with her jeep – twice by walking towards Church and stopping on foot from where she was standing.
Holloway denied attempting to run over Church with his vehicle during the trial and denied any knowledge of Church making the charges.
Justice Kellum wrote that during a review of the evidence, the town’s evidence was credible and that Church was attempting to harm Holloway’s business. Church also ignored repeated requests to quit Holloway’s business while protesting the women’s clinic and refused, the judge found. Church testified that someone from Holloway’s company asked her to move out and she refused.