When Liberty of Expression Turns Abusive

I’m in a hurry, off to get ready for my friend’s b-day dinner, so I’ll write this up real fast because this is newsworthy stuff:

I had to take the metro/subway to run a quick errand less than an hour ago, and when I was within 60 yards or so from the entrance to the station, I was confronted with a giant billboard bearing the image of… are you ready for this? A man-sized photo of a real butchered, bloody baby with 18 inch-high letters saying “Abortion”.

I’m not going to get into the political implications here. I don’t want to get into the discourse about pro or con. I know that this is the kind of thing that Americans are confronted with fairly regularly, since anti-abortionists in the States aren’t afraid to use questionable tactics to get their message across, but I’ve never seen anything like that here, up until now.

I’m talking about an image which no one should be forced to look at. What I experienced when I saw that was absolute shock. I was so upset that I lost control and started screaming at the men (only men, how ironic) who were handling the placard and handing out pamphlet. Yes, I was *that* hysterical woman.

I believe in liberty of expression. Let them have their anti-abortion campaign. But please, don’t hurl visual abuse at me to get your message across.

When I got to the art store where I had to pick up something, I was still so upset that the employees there who know me as a regular suggested I call 911 to file a complaint. Which I did immediately. I stressed the fact that I had nothing against them demonstrating, but that the image they were using was so obscene that something had to be done to remove it from public viewing.

I don’t pray very often. But on the metro on my way back home, I prayed. I prayed that those men, and THAT placard, would be gone by the time I got to the station exit which is two minutes away from my apartment. Because if they had been there still, it would have gotten very ugly. And I have to say, I was blessed this time, because when I got there, there was a cluster of police men and women, who told me they had sent those guys packing with their poster because it was indeed unacceptable for public display. But I can’t express here just how traumatic that picture was, so I was still in an extremely agitated state and crying hysterically. At first, they asked if they wanted me to send for an ambulance, go to the hospital emergency (!), but I said I had friends coming to pick me up for dinner at the restaurant. And thank heavens for that. They offered to accompany me home since they said they didn’t want me walking home alone in that state, and I gladly accepted that a policewoman walk with me the two hundred yards or so.  Then I took Coco out for a walk around the block, and called back Kimmy, who had left me a message, and explained to her what had happened. Then I got a callback from my therapist, whom I had called at the peak of my hysterical fit, when I was having… all kinds of nasty ideas about what I would do to that poster and those men if they were still there when I got back home. All that calmed me down a lot.

Coming back into my place with Coco afterwards, I called 911 again, to thank them for having responded to my call so quickly and having removed the offending material. I said that I was sure they didn’t receive thanks very often, and I wanted to be sure that my gratitude be transmitted to the crew who had so quickly responded to my call.

End of story. Phew. Off to take a cold shower and make myself pretty now. :-)

p.s. apologies in advance for this unedited text which I’m sure badly needs it, but no time right now.

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8 thoughts on “When Liberty of Expression Turns Abusive

  1. I know that the Right-to-Lifers, here in the Lower 48, use graphics in their marches (hacked up fetuses…..etc)..in order to maintain ignorance & fear…regarding Abortion

    I am sorry that that tactic hit you “in the face”…as it were

    they don’t do Billboards in my town…but many churches have those type of Photos…..posted…not “up front”…usually in back rooms somewhere…..but the Born Again folk really want to save those babies…Never mind that once they are born…all bets are off…and if anything horrific happens to that (unwanted?) child…then, it’s “God’s Will”…go figure..

    sorry for my mini-Rant….I am sorry that this happened to you…i’m glad that you & Coco are alright

    ***hugs***

    Jude

    • I had just never seen anything like that here, and was completely unprepared to be confronted with an image like that in “my” neighbourhood, not 200 yards away from my front door. Like I said to the police, it felt like an act of physical aggression.

      I’m glad my complaint was taken seriously and I’m mostly glad all that’s behind me now. Was really nice going out with good friends and feeling safe & relaxed in good company.

      Hugs right back to you.
      xx i.

  2. Oh my goodness, what an awful awful experience. I’m so glad that you called 911 and that they responded so quickly and so kindly. Since I live in Montreal, I’m also praying that I don’t run into these nutcases. Hope you managed to have a good dinner experience tonight in spite of all this!

    • Hi Avis, nice to have your visit. I guess now that it’s Grand Prix season, all bets are off in terms of public displays, and just about anything can be expected. Even though I hear the practice runs from the racetracks at my place, I managed to forget it was Grand Prix this weekend. There’s a kind of weird energy in the air today, and I don’t think it’s just me. To think I’ll be right downtown in the heart of the madness tomorrow! Yikes. But yes, dinner was really nice and the timing was perfect as it would not have been a good idea for me to stay at home alone tonight. Now I’m all better. Hope for your sake you never have to run into those bozos.

  3. I felt terrible by just reading your unfortunate encounter with some probable fanatics
    Hope you got over this incident by now , and enjoyed your dinner party
    xox

    • Whoever they were, they were definitely not afraid to use cheap tactics to get their “message” across. One of the older guys was even ridiculing me when he saw how upset I was. Bunch of idiots really. But I bristle at the conceit of these men to be waging war on women like that. One anarchist/punk-type woman gave me a high-five after I’d done ranting and screaming at them, and I must say, I’m glad I at least got it off my chest and DID something about it instead of letting it eat me alive.

      Dinner was a very quiet affair at a little restaurant on St-Denis. The food was nothing to write home about, but I always love being in Kim’s company and her friend Jackie is a really good gal too, so it was just what the doctor ordered to get my thoughts on other things and keep that image from sticking in my mind. Thanks for you empathy. Much appreciated. xx

  4. You should be so proud that you stood up to that traumatic situation and did something. It’s good to know that your 911 call got quick results. I am all for freedom of expression, but these type of “over-the-top” displays are not in the interest of the general public. As you say it’s more like waging war on women. Good for you for taking a stand

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