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?”