Disclaimer: Rescue the Innocent is not providing legal advice. Nothing on this page or on the rest of this website should be understood as legal advice. Rescue the Innocent is also not liable for any physical, psychological, and legal risks or harm that could occur.
Go in Groups
Always do sidewalk ministry in groups of two or more. It is important to have other people present as witnesses. Group members should pay close attention to the words and actions of others in their group. In the event of a false accusation, group members should be able to accurately testify to one another's conduct. Group members should also keep an eye out for each other's safety. When one member is drawn into a conversation, others should watch their back. When ministering at larger facilities, it is important for at least two group members to stay near enough to each other to perform all these responsibilities for each other. If you are looking to join a sidewalk event, consider joining a smaller group to increase their size. As a general rule of thumb, we recommend keeping the group size under ten adults. Mixed-gender groups are ideal for ministry purposes. However, for accountability purposes, we recommend having at least three members in mixed-gender groups. When opportunities for conversation arise, it may be beneficial for men to the lead the dialogue with men and women with women.
Watch for Cars
Not everyone driving by is friendly to the church's presence at abortion facilities. Given the proximity of our location to the road, be aware of drivers with hostile intent. If you are on a sidewalk, consider standing further from the edge of the street and avoid keeping your back to the road for extended periods of time. When your attention is elsewhere and you cannot see cars, have a member of the group look out for you. Do not stand in any driveways.
in the Parking Lot
Observe the disposition of everyone present in the parking lot. We want people to come over to talk and receive material. However, some people may desire to intimidate you, waste your material, or even cause you physical harm. If people appear agitated or express ill intent, take steps to protect yourself and your group.
Carry a Camera
At least one member of the group should carry a high-resolution camera on their person, at all times. Phones with high-quality cameras may be sufficient, so long as other members in the group have phones that could call the police, if needed. Any situations that involve a legal or safety risk should be recorded, if possible. These could include situations where people become verbally abusive, physically aggressive, or make accusations against members of your group (e.g. accusations of intimidation, harassment, violating the law, etc.). It is important to note that not all interactions can be recorded. It is only permissible to record when all "the parties to the communication may reasonably expect that the communication may be overheard or recorded" or after the consent of all parties is appropriately captured (CA Penal Code 632). Many escalating situations that involve loud, verbal hostility to a group in a public setting would probably fall into the first category. It is important to have ready access to the camera and be able to quickly start the recording. Please note that it is against the law to record or upload videos "with the specific intent to intimidate" (CA Penal Code 423.2; see all of 423-423.6).
Be Cognizant of Passersby
Somes passersby like bikers, joggers, and walkers may exhibit hostility towards your group. Be cognizant of their presence and try gauging their temperament before they get close. Warn your group if necessary and ensure everyone stays safe. Feel free to engage with passersby. However, stay focused on the mission; don't forget the main reason you're there is to rescue the babies brought there by their parents. Be careful not to block the sidewalk.
Carry Pepper Spray or Another Self-Defense Tool
Avoid potentially dangerous confrontations whenever possible. If you have the opportunity to leave a dangerous scene, help your group do so quickly. Choose flight over fight. If a confrontation is unavoidable, urge the perpetrator to stop their advances by presenting a self-dense tool. Carrying a simple self-defense tool like pepper spray is recommended. If you are carrying pepper spray (or any other weapon), be sure to understand the laws pertaining to its use. Do not employ the tool prematurely; always attempt to deescalate the situation by talking calmly and firmly. Make sure you care for other members in your group. If at any point you feel in danger, call the police and leave the sidewalk immediately.
The local police department should be properly notified prior to any sidewalk event. However, if the police respond to a call, you may have a few options for responding. The first and best option is to peacefully cooperate with the police. We desire to foster good relationships with our local police departments. Kindly complying (even if it is not required) can cultivate these relationships. For this reason, we recommend you carry your ID with you. If you are concerned about presenting your ID, or if you do not desire to comply, you may be able to respond in other ways. Consult the Alliance Defending Freedom's "A Legal Guide for Sidewalk Counselors" on the Legal Guide: Federal & State for more information.
“Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves."
- Matt. 10:16
"A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger."
- Prov. 15:1