M is an anti-abortion protester who gets mentioned frequently in our articles. She has been coming to the clinic for many years. All of the escorts know who she is and we use her sidewalk presentation as an example in training to help escorts develop non-engagement skills.
Ironically, shortly after we published the article “Martyrs and Saints,” M had one of the most difficult anti-abortion interference days in a long time. No one seemed to want to listen to her.
The first client and companion had pulled into the AWC parking lot, sat for awhile, backed out of the lot and told me, “We are in the wrong place. Where do we park?” I gave them directions to the private lot we have permission to use for clients on Saturdays. They had to wait about 5 minutes until the clinic door opened. M kept them company for the entire 5 minutes; pressing literature against their windows and talking to them through the closed car doors and windows.
We got the client and companion into the clinic, with M talking along beside them all the way. Another 5 minutes passed after we returned to the parking lot when two police cars pulled up. One officer got out and shined his flashlight into the windows of the car the client and companion had just left. I approached the other officers and asked if there was a problem, explaining the occupants of the car were in the clinic.
They responded, “We had a call someone was harassing the people in that car.”
I said, “Oh yes, they were harassed by her (pointing at M standing a distance away), but we got them safely into the clinic.” The officers then left after a brief conversation among themselves.
Difficult day step 1: Harassing a client so much they call the police on you.
The next car to pull into the lot identified themselves later to escorts as a family; father, mother and daughter. The daughter was the client. The minute the car pulled into the lot, M was at the door of the client talking and waving literature in her face. The mother put her arm around her daughter and asked M to stop talking and leave them alone.
In response, M moved closer to the client and said, “Don’t kill your baby.” The client slapped her really hard in the face.
The mother moved her daughter quickly forward and the father stepped in front of M.
I said. “Please don’t do that because she can accuse you of assault. Try to ignore her. Let’s just go into the clinic.”
Not the best thing for me to say at the time to an already upset client. I wish I had phrased it more gently. The client burst into tears as soon as I said it and continued to cry all the way to the clinic doors.
Difficult day step 2: Saying hurtful things that provoke violence.
As we were walking the client to the clinic, the father was chasing M around the parking lot in a pantomime of defensive basketball movements. He had both arms outstretched and waved them up and down to stop M from moving around him. They were moving around the back part of the lot. We waved another escort to the parking lot.
T did exactly the right thing – stood on the border and let the father know his family was almost in the clinic now. T didn’t interfere or try to step in between the father and M, he just let his words defuse the situation. The father broke off blocking actions and followed his family to the clinic.
Difficult day step 3: Triggering defensive actions in companions.
Another family pulled into the parking lot with an escort in their car to direct the way. Again it was two women and a man. Even though our escort, R, got out of the car with them, M moved in immediately. She was still talking and pushing literature. The client and companions were yelling, “Back off! Leave us alone!”
M ignored their pleas, continuing to talk and press against them as they were escorted to the clinic doors.
When they were almost within reach of the doors, the anti D joined M in yelling at the client. The client lunged at D and the other woman restrained her. The client and companions did get into the clinic doors safely.
Difficult day step 4: Harass clients with your words and actions enough so they will lash out against the next anti to say something to them.
When all of the clients were in for the day, M and D were talking to each other. I heard one of them say, “Did you see what she did to me?”
I think Kazei5 means that it’s a funny irony. Especially since M exclaimed to a friend “Did you see what she did to me?” when to the rest of the world she did indeed deserve the slap considering her actions over the last 5 yrs as a protestor/’side walk counselor’ ie the constant harassment, screaming and terrorizing the clinics clients.
No would ever accuse a rape victim of assault if she fought her attacker off and that’s a kin to this situation, these people do not know how to take a No, Leave Me Alone and Get a Way From Me for an answer. And only time will tell if getting the police called her by the people she wanted to ‘help’ and getting slapped will change her at all.
One another note – Maybe that can be a tactic for the clinic to employ, advising the clients to call the police on the protestors themselves.
I didn’t really think Kazei5 was saying it was funny in any way but irony, but I still feel really bad for the client who was pushed to her limit. I wish the legal system would view it the same as self-defense when clients are provoked to react.
M has been coming out for over 12 years. You have it exactly right in that she acts with “constant harassment, screaming and terrorizing the clinic’s clients.” It is not the first time a client has called the police about her harassment and so far she hasn’t changed.
We do let clients and companions know they can call the police if they are being harassed. They can report it. There was one day when there were a lot of new antis swarming the sidewalk, following clients and their companions up and down the sidewalk as they attempted to get away from them. The antis were not taking “No”, “Leave me alone” or any other words and two clients called the police at the same time. No charges were brought, but the antis were told by the police they couldn’t do that any more. It didn’t have any lasting effect, unfortunately.
Thanks for your input,
I’m genuinely curious how what they are doing is considered “okay” in terms of protesting. There’s seriously something wrong with the system.
Yes, there is something wrong with the system. In Louisville, we do not have any bubble laws to protect the clinic entrance. EMW clinic doesn’t have a private parking area for clients, so they have to approach on the public sidewalk. We also have two CPCs; one beside the clinic and the other one block away. The FACE Act protects escorts and clients from violence, but since this is a public area the antis are protected by their right to free speech. They can (and do) say anything as long as it is not threatening of violence. We often wonder about noise ordinances violations.
Thanks for your input,
I’d almost admire their tenaciousness if they weren’t such terrorists…
One would think that after you get slapped, that no one wants to talk to them, but they still seem to think they know best, especially when there’s no thinking involved, just a blind faith in the idea that they know best.
And yeah, I know that violence in this situation is not the best outcome, considering how the antis would use it against clients and their companions, but I can’t help but admit to a little bit of happy thought when I read about M getting slapped by that mom.
I cannot really agree with you, but I know what you are saying. One would think that any one of the reactions from clients and companions that morning would have been cause for reflection by M on what was and wasn’t working. The antis are tenacious and focused. They continue to talk to clients in attempts of “this time they will hear me.” The client slapped M, but it didn’t change anything it just upset the client and her companions. It didn’t give me a happy thought. Antis are bullies and harass, but I wouldn’t wish violence on them. I just would love to have them go away and not interfere with clients and their personal decisions. We try to not engage and ignore them, but sometimes with M it is really, really hard.
Thank you for your input,
While I have found the calm to not lash out at the protesters, I think it is the client and companions’ prerogative to do so, if they see fit. While I may advise them that this is not a good day to go to jail, my days of jumping in between protesters and combat veteran Marine companions are long gone. If they want to engage the anti’s, who are we to dissuade them from exercising their free speech and blowing off a little steam?
And really, we ought never forget that M and D and the rest are not there to counsel and help folks. Their number one objective is to make this process, the visit to the clinic, as difficult as possible, by whatever means possible. It is in their literature as a main objective. So, if we can negate that by calmly telling papa Marine that his baby girl needs him in the clinic, and that becomes more important to him than playing pressure “D” to M in the parking lot, so be it. But that is their call, and we need to guard against involving ourselves when that isn’t what the clients or companions want.
This is their doctor appointment. Let them deal with it their way. They’re grown.