One week after the murder of Dr. Tiller

Saturday June 6, 2009

Escorts: 20+

Protesters: 25-30

Cops: 2 on hand with extra patrol drive bys

In the eternal words of my grandmother, “life goes on”. Everything changes, but then it really just stays the same. I have spent the week almost obsessively reading, watching and listening to every scrap of media coverage regarding Dr. Tiller, the funeral, Scott Roeder and any other related topic I could get my paws on.

I attended a small vigil in honor of Dr. Tiller and listened to local activist  Carla Wallace reference Louisville’s  Unity Rally in 1997.

For those who are not familiar, the KKK decided to hold a rally in the middle of downtown Louisville complete with hoods and banners and such. Many people in the community, including the mayor,  said “ignore them”, “don’t give them the attention”, “they are dangerous, it is not safe to oppose them”, when counter demonstrations were organized. But tons of people would not let it go. And so more than 1,000 people showed up to counter the 35 or so klanspeople. We were loud and determined to make sure everyone knew racism was not welcome.

We understood that not a single lynching was ever averted with silence.

Not one oppressive act was ever derailed because no one spoke.

“Silence is a position”, Carla said. When we fail to speak out against injustice we condone it. When we fail to work towards empowerment and equality, we perpetuate oppression and intolerance.

Laquetta Shepard 2002 KKK rally in Louisville KY.

Laquetta Shepard 2003 KKK rally in Bowling Green, KY.

And Dr. Tiller’s murder is no different. Violence and intimidation will not keep me or my ilk from getting up and helping clients into the doors of our abortion clinic.

And so we showed up. Almost as many escorts as protesters.

I was unsure how our local protesters would respond to the national storm. As physically aggressive as they are on a regular basis, most of our protesters are not interested in this kind of violence, they are bullies, nothing more.  But I just did not know if they would be quiet and not push any buttons or if they would be out looking for a fight.  I saw equal opportunity for genuine humility and sadness for the loss of life or conversely self-righteousness and stepped up agro behavior. And as most Saturdays, the group reaction is not homogeneous either.


It was quiet.

I don’t pretend to know why the protesters were almost tolerable. I don’t have any idea if they were being respectful or simply wishing not to be antagonistic. But I do know that I was damn happy to see a strong show of escorts, who were ready to take what ever fire was coming down the pike. Last week a man was shot to death for showing up and supporting families in really rough spots. James Barrett, a clinic escort, was murdered in 2003 with Dr. John Britton by Paul Hill in Pensacola Florida.

These things, they happen.

In the last ten years we have had a lot of violence in Louisville. An 80-something regular escort was shoved to the ground, an escort’s ankle was broken in a skirmish. Protesters have been arrested for punching client’s friends.  And we have to physically cut a path through a crowd at the door most Saturday mornings.

And don’t forget the Clients.

They have been called sluts, murderers and degenerates. Clients have been described as heartless, and nazi like. They are told they will anguish in pain and depression eventually dieing of cancer after their abortions. They are physically hassled and emotionally berated as they make their way into the clinic doors.

Violence at the only abortion clinic in my city happens every day.

And so with great sadness I mourn the loss of Dr. Tiller. But violence will not work to intimidate us. We need Reproductive and Sexual health care.

And we must speak loudly, clearly stating that abortion is part of our lives and we will have quality access.

3 thoughts on “One week after the murder of Dr. Tiller

  1. That image is actually from Bowling Green, KY in 2003– I was there when that happened. Her actions stopped the rally in its tracks.

    The rally that Carla Wallace referred to was partially organized by Louisville’s then-active Anti-Racist Action chapter 🙂


    • That image had nothing to do with the Louisville protest. It happened in Bowling Green Ky and silence is what stopped the rally.

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