As with all important things in life, it is always necessary that we be willing to put our money where our mouth is. That is, we may speak of things that are wrong or in need of change, but are we really willing to actually do something about it? Are we willing to get our hands dirty, to take a risk, to be willing to pay the price for our convictions?
For example, it is fairly easy and safe to run a blog site. Sure, I get plenty of hate mail. There seem to be lots of really nasty and bitter people who seek to post anonymous comments on this site. Some of the things they say would make your hair stand up. But I can quickly delete these vicious remarks. So my work is relatively painless.
But other people who fight the good fight are doing more than just warning, or pleading, or making their case. They are willing to stand up and be counted in a very real way. Consider the abortion debate, for example. Many are willing to write about it, or warn about it. But very few are willing to take their pro-life convictions and put them to the test. Very few are willing to protest outside of abortion clinics, and take the risk of being arrested.
One Queensland pro-lifer has been doing this for a number of years now. He has spent a fair amount of time in prison, in order that some unborn babies do not have to be killed. His name is Graham Preston, and his story deserves to be told.
I here offer his most recent newsletter. He had been expecting to spend another stint in jail, when to his surprise he was acquitted. I offer below – without further comment – his own words. Please keep him in your prayers. And let his story challenge you about how dedicated you are to making a difference in this world.
24 April, 2007
It was quite a surprise, but I’m very glad to be able to say that I am home again from prison. Anyone who has had to spend significant periods of time away from family will know how it really helps you appreciate how much they mean to you, so it is good to be back. (And so say all of us!! – Liz and the children)
Yesterday when I went to court Liz and I had mentally prepared ourselves for the likelihood that I would be spending a few more months in prison so it took a bit of quick readjusting when we heard the magistrate say that I was acquitted. (But even after being acquitted I still had to be handcuffed and taken downstairs to a tiny cell until the paperwork was finished.) As good as it is to be out though, the only downside is that the acquittal was based on a legal technicality rather the real issues relating to abortion.
The police had presented their evidence against me (one policeman landed a really low blow by stating that he had seen an ‘elderly man’ (me!!) sitting on the ‘clinic’ stairway!) and I was just about to start my defence when the magistrate suggested he thought it might be a waste of time. I couldn’t believe he said that as I thought he meant I didn’t have a chance (I have had this magistrate before so he largely knew my defence). But instead he went on to say that he thought that I had no case to answer! So for the next hour I just sat back and listened as the magistrate and the police prosecutor argued back and forth until, happily, the magistrate won the argument and I was acquitted.
It had come out in the evidence that there was only about five seconds between the time the police told me to leave or I would be arrested and the time I was actually told I was under arrest. The conversation had been taped and the tape was played to the court so it couldn’t be denied. The legislation about trespass specifically states that the police are supposed to give a reasonable amount of time for a person to explain why they are allegedly trespassing before they can be arrested. This magistrate said that five seconds wasn’t long enough and so that was sufficient for me to get off.
The crazy thing is that the previous time I was arrested when doing another sit-in we were given only a few seconds then too but that magistrate said that was enough time. I actually appealed that decision and the judge in the District Court agreed with the magistrate so I lost the appeal. In view of that maybe this decision on Monday will be appealed by the police so it mightn’t be finished with yet.
This time at Woodford prison was similar in many respects to my previous times at the Arthur Gorrie Correctional Centre. Both are high security prisons so there is very limited opportunity to move around. That is probably the most challenging aspect I find of being in prison – you can’t get away from it – which I guess is to state the obvious! Sometimes though when I couldn’t tune out the constant coarseness of the language and subject matter of the men at the tables around me in the general living area I would go out into the haze of cigarette smoke in the exercise yard (at least a ban on indoor smoking was enforced) only all too often to be bombarded by annoyingly loud death-metal type ‘music’! Then there were the occasional fights – it didn’t take much to set them off. That made the times we had out on the oval in the relatively peaceful, open, fresh air a delight.
Many afternoons after our evening meal (sometimes this would be brought in as early as 3.30pm!) there would be a game of volleyball in our unit’s exercise yard before we were locked down for the night. But this was not volleyball as you might know it! It should have been called ‘dangerball’ and was not for the faint-hearted! Unique prison rules applied and you were at almost as much risk of getting your head knocked off by your own team-mates hitting the ball as by the opposition. But I enjoyed playing despite being hit in the face more than once which resulted in the frame of my glasses snapping. Fortunately a resourceful fellow prisoner managed to get the glasses to hold together using a bent paper clip until I got replacement pair about 10 days later (I struggle to see much without them.)
I had a continuous stream of requests for drawings to be done of prisoners’ children, wives/girlfriends, pets, trucks, cars, motorbikes, and the prisoners themselves. I really enjoyed doing them, it helped me improve my skills, and above all it helped open the door for many good conversations with men who may never have spoken to me otherwise. Prison is a world of its own and most of the inmates come from very different backgrounds to my own but despite these challenges it was not all bad and I was able to develop many friendships. And once again it amazed me how sympathetic the men were to our stand against abortion.
As far as the future goes, for myself, I will not be risking getting arrested for the next couple of months for the sake of my family. (Liz found this last time especially demanding with family responsibilities, running the Pregnancy Problem Centre, and studying, so once again we ask if anyone knows a pro-life female tertiary student who would like free board, should I go back to prison again in the future, we’d like to hear from them!) We are also always happy to talk (obligation free) with anyone who may be considering the possibility of being involved in the actions.
“As long as the world shall last there will be wrongs and if no man objected and no man rebelled, those wrongs would last forever.” (Clarence Darrow)