Saturday before Father’s day. June 20, 2009.
Cops: 1 with extra patrols
I know it has been a few weeks since Father’s Day weekend, but it has been a little crazy around here, and I really wanted to write about the morning. So please forgive the delay.
When we showed up to the clinic around 6:50, there were 30 or so protesters in their usual spots, starting the rosary and in general milling about. About 7:10 or so the Sisters for Life, Angela’s group, marching around the corner. By around 7:30 there were close to 300 protesters outside the clinic.
Most of the protesters stayed very close to the door, creating a gauntlet on both sides of the over hang. Those around the door were singing and praying loudly, Angela was using a blow- horn directing the protesters. With approximately 200-250 protesters on the clinic side of the street, they spilled out into the street.
There were also another 25-30 protesters standing in the parking lot across Market Street. These protesters were mostly people we had not seen before from Sister’s for Life and the usual protesters from A Women’s Choice, the cpc down the street; these are the guys that do the majority of the chasing of clients from their cars to the clinic door.
There was a very different tone around these protesters as opposed to our regular crowd, they were very verbally aggressive making statements like “you will find great pain in the judgment of the blood of the babies on your hands” to the escorts. I heard that one a lot from a very tall, lanky man, wearing the pink Sisters for life tee-shirt. He was holding onto a 3 or 4 foot ‘Malachi’ sign and really yelled at clients getting as close to them has possible. Often we get called ‘deathscorts’ and vultures. We often get preached at and condemned, but I have rarely been so often told of my certain evilness and a complete de-humanization of my fellow escorts.
Another unique aspect of this protest happened at the door. Commonly, the Catholics say the rosary at the door with a person or two stepping out of line to talk at a client coming through, but mostly they stay in line and focus on their prayers. The Sisters for Life group would stop praying or singing to yell as a group at any client walking by. Squeezing into the area in front of the clinic doors, protesters attempted to impede clients walking forward from the street onto the sidewalk. Protesters we also trespassing onto clinic property throughout the morning and Officer R spent much of his morning keeping protesters on public property.
One client came out of the clinic to yell at one of the Sisters for Life protester for calling and waking up her mother to tell her she was at the abortion clinic.
Our escort training encourages escorts to refrain from engaging protesters in most cases. We try to keep lines of communication as open as possible without entering into heated debates or arguments with the protesters. Often escorts have to walk away from protesters as they attempt to engage us. This Saturday we had several protesters who attempted to talk to the escorts well after the escort made clear their desire not to engage. On one occasion, the protester, an older white male, grabbed the elbow of a younger white female escort as she attempted to disengage from the conversation by walking away. She became very upset and turned around yelling at him not to touch her. He immediately denied that he had touched her and began to argue with her about it. Several escorts intervened and gave her the space to walk away from the protester.
Around 8:15 or 8:30am the protesters began having speakers use the blow-horn to speak to the crowd right outside of the clinic doors. Several men got up and spoke about how the abortions of their partners and wronged them, emphasizing their lack of inclusion in the decision. This all went on until close to 9am, when they marched off as quickly as they arrived, chanting and dancing off to a good old camp style call and response spelling Jesus as they went.
The morning was probably one of the worst I have seen in a while. We were not prepared for the large number of protesters, nor the overall aggressiveness from people we have never seen before. It was a rough one. But as usual, the escorts stepped up, dealt with the situation in front of us and remained as calm and composed as possible.
I continue to be amazed at the positive attitude of the escorts.
Please make sure to read the note a client posted about her experience entering the clinic this morning, posted below.