The Day the Circus Came to Town ~ by Penny

Escorting is always a high-tension job, even on a relatively normal Saturday.  Saturdays always bring out the highest numbers of protesters, and the larger their numbers, the greater their escalations.  This past weekend came with new and frustrating challenges – the whole circus came to town.  

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Operation Save America rode into Louisville this past week in a cargo van emblazoned with headstones and some favorite graphic “dead baby” imagery, with a few lies about breast cancer sprinkled in for variety.  While the clinic was only targeted on Friday and Saturday, the protesters did their best to cause as much disruption as possible during their stay. 

An hour before the clinic opened on Saturday, they set up two large speakers (each on a six foot tripod) along the edge of the property line just outside the waiting room.  Cords were left dangling between these without a care in the world for the trip and fall hazard this creates in a very highly-trafficked area – because nothing says pro-life like harming people.  

As soon as the setup was finished, escorts holding the property line were treated to some Christian-soft-rock at a volume which could be clearly heard around the entire block.

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And again, an entire hour before the clinic even opened its doors:
16559425_2351336238425900_1400690639_nAfter the warm-up tape ran its course, OSA members went on to take turns haranguing escorts and clients about our sinning and iniquity as per usual.  

The rhetoric itself is not what made Saturday special.  When a national, well-funded group like OSA comes to town, our regular cohort of sidewalk “counselors,” sign-wavers, and other motley shamers gets all stirred up.  More of them come.  Many of these unfamiliar faces are not familiar with the property line, the FACE Act, or, it seems, common decency.  Their heightened sense of importance and urgency, combined with the extra crowding and assaulting volume from the speakers, made it a very nervous morning. There were places where the sidewalk was nearly entirely obstructed, either by too many bodies or so that OSA could make room for the props they brought along for extra “poignancy.”

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This is the corner of 2nd and Market – this is what clients had to walk through before even being able to see the clinic’s doors.


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And for reference, here is the view around that same corner.  See the speakers taking up half the sidewalk?  Can you imagine the courage clients and companions have to summon to get through this mess?  Can you think of any other medical practice where this intimidation is tolerated?

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Yes, the picture above is of a tiny white coffin, complete with plastic fetus dolls along the top in a row, on a tray table pushed out into the path of clients on their way in.  

One begins to wonder, looking at their van, their sound system, their tiny caskets – how many women could this money have really helped, if they cared as much as they claim to?  How many meals could this have made for a food-insecure pregnant person, how many nice outfits to go on interviews, how many hours of childcare for the babies already in this world?  If this weren’t actually about controlling the minds and bodies of women, how much of that lobbying power could they throw behind paid medical leave for all new parents?  Looking at the fancy equipment, and the van that’s certainly much newer than any vehicle I’ve ever owned, I have to wonder:  what do they believe their GoPros, amplifiers, custom paint jobs, and bags of tiny plastic fetuses are accomplishing?  

 

 

We Don’t Want Your ‘Sorry’ – We Want You to Stop Hurting People {by Huxley}

Volunteer clinic escorts get hit by antis at the clinic pretty regularly. It’s usually petty little garbage, not worth even attempting to do anything about. Heck, it might even be an accident that the same anti stepped on your foot repeatedly, or whacked you with their sign repeatedly, or knocked into you repeatedly because they “just didn’t see you there”! As a general rule, it’s best to stick to our goal of striving for de-escalation and non-engagement when this happens.

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“I accidentally walked into the door, officer.”

Sometimes, though, safety makes it necessary to object to an anti’s behavior. Our clinic has a designated “drop zone” in front of it, a small area between two signs that, on Saturdays, is not supposed to be blocked. Because the clinic is located on a busy downtown thoroughfare, vehicles need to be able to pull into this space, allow passengers to exit, and pull back into traffic. When we have enough volunteers, we station ourselves along the sidewalk in this area. We’ve had more than a few instances of antis creating an actual traffic hazard when clients pull into this space.

 

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Unfortunately, one of the persistent difficulties our antis suffer from is reading comprehension. You see, when we made the mistake of discussing the Federal Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE Act) with folks, they seemed to get the impression that the prohibition on people blocking the entrance (this would be them) actually means that volunteers with agents of the clinic (this would be us) cannot help clients get past them when they attempt to block access. So, according to the antis, what the FACE Act really does is protect their “right” to block patients accessing the clinic entrance! If you’ve heard their interpretation of Scripture, this probably doesn’t surprise you.

All of this is to give you some context for what happened this morning. The video is a little confusing if you’re not familiar with the entrance of our clinic. And if you’re not familiar with FACE, the woman anti yelling in it makes even less sense. Please note: the video is chaotic, does depict violence, and there is swearing.  (transcript at the end)

So. The woman, Kellie Sabie, tries to force her way through escorts so that she can jump in front of a patient attempting to walk in the door, and then starts yelling at escorts. Her husband, Aaron, assumes that she needs to be protected from the escorts and wades in. While he certainly knocks into a number of escorts, he actually grabs Pat – 67 years old, 5’2”, and all of 98 pounds – and throws her to the ground.

She’s badly bruised, and grateful for no fractures.

Officers from Louisville Metro Police Department have been stationed across the street on Saturdays for a while now, so an escort who had filmed the assault accompanied Pat to show them the video and explain what happened. Aaron wasn’t arrested, but Pat is pursuing charges. He asked officers if he could apologize to her and she, of course, said no thank you; shortly thereafter, Aaron returned to the front of clinic to resume “preaching” on his loudspeaker.

To be honest, I don’t think any of us particularly care whether Aaron or Kellie is remotely sorry for their actions today, or any day. All we want them to do is to quit breaking laws that are intended to prevent people from being harmed. We want them to not swarm cars as clients try to park or exit their vehicle; we want them to not physically block patients attempting to walk to the clinic entrance, using their huge 4’ x 2’signs as blockades; we want them to keep their assaults at least a little more subdued than what happened today.

As regular readers know, this has been escalating at our clinic for some time now, and it’s thanks primarily to the group Aaron and Kellie are with, “P82 Ministries.” They’ve recently begun working with Operation Save America, and P82’s leader, Joseph Spurgeon, has publicly called on fellow “real” Christians to join them in testing how much law breaking they can get away with in the name of preventing private citizens accessing medical care they happen to not like. They figure with the current and local political climate, no one’s going to really punish them.

So we’re about to find out if they’re right.

We’ll keep you posted.

In the meantime, volunteer clinic escorts in Louisville and across the country will continue to show up and hold space for clients, whatever that looks like at a given clinic and for a given client. We’ll hope we don’t get hurt too badly. We’ll continue explaining the FACE Act to folks when it’s necessary to do so, and redirect any potential volunteer escorts who think we’re counter-protesters. We’ll continue to have our Points of Unity as our goals. We’ll continue to point out that the behavior in which anti-choice clinic harassers engage would not be tolerated by law enforcement if it were engaged in by other groups of actual protesters. We’ll continue to point out that protest of elected officials for official government acts is in fact an entirely different thing from harassing and assaulting private citizens for their medical choices. As long as clients have to navigate a gauntlet of hateful, yelling bigots in order to access healthcare, we’ll be there in our neon vests to hold the line, and to walk with clients if they want us to.

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Transcripts:

Escort Shoved to the Ground

Kelly Sabie: (yelling) Public sidewalk!! You and you!! (pointing)
Escort M: Back off Sabie, back off
(Aaron Sabie comes up from the back, approaching from the left)
AS: All y’all need to get back
Escort M: Back off, Sabie, Back off
KS: Really
AS: ALL y’all
Escort L: You’re going to shove women to the ground?
KS: I didn’t shove anybody
AS: Get out of my wife’s face! (camera shows escort being helped to her feet) Get out of my wife’s face like you going to do something
Escort M: You’re shoving women to the ground
AS: I stepped in here to protect my wife. Y’all got a problem?
KS: Because she (pointing) backed into me!
Escort L: I’ve got a problem
KS: She backed into me
AS: Y’all want to surround my wife like that
Escort L: I’ve got a problem with you shoving a woman to the ground
Escort H: (to other escort) Don’t speak to him, don’t speak to him
AS: You know what, I apologize for that, I apologize for that
Anti on Loudspeaker: This is what’s taking place this is what’s taking place
KS: She’s gonna tell me I can’t walk on a public sidewalk!!!
AS: I will apologize for doing that
Escort M: Keep losing your shit,
KS: walk on a public sidewalk
Escort M: keep losing your shit, go ahead, it makes you look super stable, go ahead, keep losing your shit

KS: Oh I am thank you
AS: Who did I knock down? Because I will apologize because I did not
Escort M: It’s too late, she’s already getting the police, it’s too late
KS: …that she wouldn’t let me walk around the sidewalk. You can’t block a person (slamming her sign against the ground for emphasis) that’s your rule remember? There’s Louisville ordinances that go against everything you guys are doing
(Laughter in the background – at the idea that there are ordinances against what we’re doing)
KS: (to an escort off camera) And I don’t need you telling me what to do
Escort M: Somebody de-escalate this bitch y’all don’t care to de-escalate your own people that are losing their shit?
Escort H: You know they don’t.
KS: You need to stop
Loudspeaker: Here’s where we stand. They do not want these children to live
Escort M: Right Sabie whatever

Aaron Preaching

Obey my commands.

And then my question for you this morning is, do you hear the words of Jesus when he said, “thou shall not murder?” Does that – do those words resonate in your heart? Or have you gone hard, have you given over to a debased mind this morning to believe things that aren’t true? Things like, “it’s OK to murder my child”. TheThe folks in the orange vests, the folks behind the counter, your loved ones that bring you in here this morning, they all lied to you making you think that everything is going to be OK, that it’s just a clump of cells, that it’s just a procedure, but those same…