The NY Emergency Safety Zone

On June 23, the New York Attorney General’s office issued the following press release:
https://ag.ny.gov/press-release/ag-schneiderman-files-lawsuit-end-persistent-harassment-women-entering-womens-health

Tl;dr: Due to the harassment suffered by patients, escorts, and staff of Choices clinic in Queens, the NY AG has filed a lawsuit under the FACE Act (and a NY state clinic access law) barring the defendants from harassing those seeking or providing healthcare. This lawsuit and preliminary injunction also seeks to create a 16-foot safety zone in front of Choices clinic.

The protestor behavior the AG cites as grounds for the lawsuit is too familiar for Louisville escorts at EMW. As I read through the list of offenses the protestors are alleged to have committed, I thought “check, check, check…yeah, I’ve seen all of those in Louisville.”

Graphic signs identical to those displayed outside Choices clinic are used to intimidate, harass, and block patients entering EMW. As mentioned in the recent June 14 Metro Council Public Safety Committee meeting, signs have been used to make physical contact with escorts. While not shown in the NY video linked above, I have no doubt the escorts outside Choices have suffered similar unwanted contact.

Angela at entrance (3) 02182017

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Unfortunately, the environment in Louisville is one of escalating violence. In January 2017, a 67 year-old escort was knocked to the ground by a member of the local chapter of Operation Save America. A complaint was made to LMPD, but no charges were filed. Then, of course, there was the Mother’s Day weekend protest in which emboldened OSA protestors flooded in from across the nation to block the clinic doors and test the FACE Act. And they’ve already scheduled their return visit.

I’m jealous of the escorts at Choices for one reason: it appears that the NY state government has their backs. Escorts at EMW receive no such state support. We have Governor Matt Bevin, who met with OSA privately in February (immediately after they displayed graphic signs outside a middle school and had to be removed).

It will take an act of courage for the Metro Council to pass a safety zone in Louisville. Any issue even tangentially related to the topic of abortion enters into thorny political territory. But remember: this is a public safety issue. It doesn’t matter what political message is printed on those signs or who is holding them, the signs are still being used to physically harass escorts.

We can’t rely on the Commonwealth to care about our safety. We can only hope the Metro Council cares enough about the threat of national extremists to take steps to protect Louisville residents and visitors.


Louisville Clinic Escorts is currently raising money for our Legal Defense Fund. We will be having a concert fundraiser June 25 at 6PM in Louisville, KY. The venue will be announced 24 hours before the fundraiser’s start time on this blog and at the event link below. Donations can be made in person at this event. The fundraiser will feature music by two local bands, a tap takeover at the venue, and a local restaurant selling food. Event information can be found here: http://www.bit.ly/LCEfundraiser

Additionally, donations can be made via PayPal. Just send your donations to everysaturdaymorning@gmail.com (Louisville Clinic Escorts is not a 501c3)

Sidewalk Snippet 06/21/17

Is bad behavior contagious? Many of the anti-choice protestors that target EMW have been harassing the clinic’s patients for years. However, over the past couple years, new and more aggressive groups have begun targeting KY’s last remaining abortion clinic. The bad behavior of these new groups seems to be infecting some of the older protestors and they’re causing public safety issues.

This morning, one of the “sweet old lady” protestors* crossed the property line to harass a client and her companion. An escort told this woman to step back over the property line and onto the sidewalk. The protestor told the escort that she can do as she pleases. Later in the morning, a different protestor stood in the street while wearing a sign around his neck. He must have stood there for at least 20 minutes. Again, these are older protestors who have been harassing clients for years, but they seem to be getting more aggressive.

After the Metro Council discussion on the possibility of a Safety Zone outside EMW, we’ve noticed some extra LMPD patrols in the area. We’re very appreciative of their efforts but they’re not able to be there every second of every day. A Safety Zone at the clinic is needed to ensure patient safety and to end the blatant trespassing and harassment outside EMW.

*There is nothing sweet about any of these people. This is just the impression they try to give clients at first.


Louisville Clinic Escorts is currently raising money for our Legal Defense Fund. We will be having a concert fundraiser June 25 at 6PM in Louisville, KY. The venue will be announced 24 hours before the fundraiser’s start time on this blog and at the event link below. Donations can be made in person at this event. The fundraiser will feature music by two local bands, a tap takeover at the venue, and a local restaurant selling food. Event information can be found here: http://www.bit.ly/LCEfundraiser

Additionally, donations can be made via PayPal. Just send your donations to everysaturdaymorning@gmail.com (Louisville Clinic Escorts is not a 501c3)

Who We Trust

I had the pleasure of chatting with someone who has been escorting for quite a few years this morning – while chatting isn’t the point of what we’re doing, it is an awfully nice perk. As we talked today we got on to the subject of how we discuss escorting with people in other areas of our lives. How do you reconcile bring proudly pro-choice with a sense of wanting to avoid having your volunteer work interfere with your career, or your relationships with family members who consider themselves pro-life? What are the potential negative consequences – exclusion from your family Christmas party, getting the cold shoulder from a buddy, getting fired?

In a way this is an extension of a conundrum that I have gone through many different times. Do I post about escorting on social media? (Yes, but I am more comfortable doing that after hiding my posts from some outspokenly anti-choice folks.) Do I talk about it at work? Bring it up in casual conversation with friends or acquaintances? When I chat with the employees at my favorite store I sometimes wonder, would telling them the whole story about how I spent my morning ruin the friendly relationship that we have?

It’s something that I think about a lot. In some ways it feels mildly similar to my experience coming out as queer (happy pride month!). I’m lucky that my parents and close relatives will accept me no matter what. It might mean some awkward conversations but no disowning, getting kicked out of the house, etc. (I am so eternally grateful – happy father’s day too!) But there are plenty of people who don’t have that kind of support network. And at what point do you talk about this personal part of your life with co-workers or people you are somewhat obligated to get along peacefully with while having none of the ties that can help smooth things over with friends or family? Point: it isn’t private, it’s not a big deal, no one else’s opinion about your life really matters, and by talking about it you can normalize it. Counterpoint: but you do worry because even though you know that it’s totally ok to be queer, not everyone is there yet. People are murdered for their sexuality. Similarly, you know that it’s totally ok to choose to have an abortion, but domestic terrorists have killed in the name of “life”.

I am proud to be pro-choice and to be a clinic escort, and I’m proud of the person I am all around. Being honest about who you are can feel really risky; it doesn’t diminish that sense of pride. I believe that we can chip away at the faulty assumptions of the “norm,” whether those assumptions are in regards to sexuality or the idea that reproductive freedom is a taboo subject, not to be discussed in front of delicate company. I also believe fully that everyone has to choose what that looks like for themselves, and that there is absolutely nothing to be ashamed of in being selective in who you trust. In the spirit of choice, we get to choose who we trust with what information and cannot judge others, or ourselves, for making those decisions.


Louisville Clinic Escorts is currently raising money for our Legal Defense Fund. We will be having a concert fundraiser June 25 at 6PM in Louisville, KY. The venue will be announced 24 hours before the fundraiser’s start time on this blog and at the event link below. Donations can be made in person at this event. The fundraiser will feature music by two local bands, a tap takeover at the venue, and a local restaurant selling food. Event information can be found here: http://www.bit.ly/LCEfundraiser

Additionally, donations can be made via PayPal. Just send your donations to everysaturdaymorning@gmail.com (Louisville Clinic Escorts is not a 501c3)

Sidewalk Snippet 6/17/17

Followers of this blog or our Facebook page know that we occasionally post photos showing protestors and the dangerous, intimidating situations they create. When escorts take photos, it’s for documentation. When anti-choice protestors take photos, it’s in order to harass escorts and clients.

June 17 was the day before Father’s Day, which is typically a very heavy day for protestors. This day brought about 90 protestors to the clinic from various organizations. Early in the morning, I observed the son of a protesting couple playing with a camera. The parents are part of a group that brings multiple cameras, 4’x 2’ graphic signs, and loudspeakers. Their son appears to be around 6 years old and could now harass and intimidate clients with his own camera.

Later in the morning, the sidewalks clogged with multiple anti-choice groups, I took a photo documenting the crowd and how difficult it was for patients to reach the clinic. This photo included the same parents’ teen daughter blocking the sidewalk by holding a 4’ x 2’ sign. The mother accosted me for taking the photo, “She’s just a child.”

I wouldn’t post that photo without hiding that child’s face. Along with her brother, she’s a minor being used by her parents as just another tool to harass clients. Unlike a sign or loudspeaker, though, she’ll grow up and embrace or reject her parents’ specific, twisted doctrine. Today, I make the decent choice not to show her face here. I wish her parents had the decency not to use her on the sidewalk.


Louisville Clinic Escorts is currently raising money for our Legal Defense Fund. We will be having a concert fundraiser June 25 at 6PM in Louisville, KY. The venue will be announced 24 hours before the fundraiser’s start time on this blog and at the event link below. Donations can be made in person at this event. The fundraiser will feature music by two local bands, a tap takeover at the venue, and a local restaurant selling food. Event information can be found here: http://www.bit.ly/LCEfundraiser

Additionally, donations can be made via PayPal. Just send your donations to everysaturdaymorning@gmail.com (Louisville Clinic Escorts is not a 501c3)

Sidewalk Snippet 06/13/17

The first item in our Points of Unity reads, “Escorts must gain consent from every client every time.” When a patient pulls into a lot or parking space, every escort must explicitly ask if that patient would like an escort to walk with them to EMW. If they accept an offer to escort from me, I’ll generally give them a some brief advice for dealing with the protesters. That advice boils down to, “Anyone not wearing an orange vest is probably a protester” and “you can tell them to go away if you like, but they’ll probably just keep talking to you.”

That advice is based off my observations from my year of experience escorting. While escorts seek active consent to aid in a patient’s healthcare visit, anti-choice protesters will force their agenda on anyone who happens to be on that block. They harass and follow patients even if that patient has told them “leave me alone.” EMW is located in downtown Louisville and they often harass people who work downtown and are passing by, assuming they are headed for the clinic. And, of course, they use loudspeakers to make their harassment inescapable.

When a patient tells me they don’t want an escort, I don’t take it personally and I leave them alone. Seeing that patient then have to walk through a gauntlet of protesters without that basic level of decency is heartrending. When you don’t gain consent, it’s not counseling, it’s harassment.

Metro Council Safety Committee Hearing on Safety Zone initiative.

One year ago this month, 12 dedicated members of the reproductive rights and justice communities in Louisville formed a Safety Zone Committee to urge our Metro Council to take steps to address safety on our sidewalks.  We all know first hand how dangerous the powder keg constructed by aggressive antis is. Some of us remember when Dr David Gunn and two clinic escorts were shot in Pensacola Florida in 1993 (of the three, one escort survived). We all remember when Dr George Tiller was shot in the head in his Wichita Kansas church in 2009. One of us managed to catch it on camera when another of us was thrown to the ground by a protester in Louisville early this year. We are not interested in waiting for major injury or worse to occur on our sidewalk before something is done to prevent it.

In summer of 2016 the Safety Zone Committee put together a very thorough information packet and started scheduling meetings with Metro Council members. This packet included information about existing local laws and how they could be amended to create a safer sidewalk not just at EMW (KY’s lone abortion clinic) but also at any women’s heath centers and domestic violence shelters.

The packet also featured statistics showing clear escalation in threats and violence nationally, as well as information collected directly from patients shortly after entering EMW about what it was like for them to walk past the protesters. These numbers are rattling.

Included were pictures of the antis on the sidewalk, information about existing buffer laws in other cities, and diagrams of our public sidewalk where aggressive antis have complete access to physically confront, and sometimes touch and obstruct, people while they approach the clinic.

Over the course of several months Safety Zone Committee members met with over a dozen Metro Council Members and local law enforcement about the need for enforceable safety measures. All were invited to come down and see for themselves what happens on the sidewalk. Some declined the invitation saying they had been frequently harassed while patronizing restaurants on the block. Others didn’t feel a need to visit as they were so bothered by descriptions of the scene and the information presented that they quickly offered their support.

At a certain point efforts became more challenging when committee members started approaching less than likely allies, some of whom understood the need for safety measures but were concerned about their constituents rejecting them for “supporting abortion access.” The committee took a hiatus as the Fall/Winter Holidays approached, knowing that it was only a matter of time before the new legislative session, national extremists visiting, and large spring protest days highlighted a need for safer sidewalks.

Sure enough, between the presidential inauguration, the aggressive attacks on abortion in our Capitol, and national extremists “street preaching” not just at EMW, but also at a local hospital and a high school and middle school, a fire was sparked under supporters. Calls, emails, tweets, and comment threads went wild. Police and city officials could not ignore the problem. We readied ourselves for what was coming our way.

If you have been following this blog, or myriad news sources, you know that in addition to the list of events above, we were forced to react to our Governor attempting to shut down EMW with a permit dispute, quickly followed by national extremists attempting to shut down EMW with with physical blockades, which resulted in local and possibly federal charges. These things have kept escorts on our toes, and brought LOTS of media attention, which we have also had to put energy into.

A few weeks ago members of the Safety Zone Committee were contacted by the Metro Council Safety Committee. They are ready to discuss the matter. We have been ready for this for over a year. Our original impression was that the Committee meeting would be closed, so we would need to send our love and support from afar. Yesterday we learned that is not the case, and that the meeting would be open, which means we can go –  and so could the media, and the antis.

We had almost exactly 24 hours to mobilize our supporters, and you know what? They came out in force. There are about 150 seats in the Metro Council meeting chambers. All of those seats were full. We counted five protesters.

While local extremists displayed their gory signs and used audio projection equipment to voice their opinion in the street outside Metro Hall, supporter of access calmly filled the room and equipped themselves with a simple unified message:

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There were a few proceedings before our agenda item. When the time came Metro Council members spoke among themselves at first, and called on staff from the Jefferson County Attorney’s office asking about the 35 foot law in Massachusetts that was found unconstitutional recently. There was conversation about how the ACLU of Kentucky has suggested that a rectangular egress spanning the distance from the clinic door to the curb with a width of 8 feet would preserve the rights of protesters to speak freely, and create a safer way for patients to access the clinic.

Major Eric Johnson was called to speak next, and answered what he could of an array of questions from Council Members. Bill Hollander mentioned having seen our pictures of protesters standing as close to the entrance as they legally can now and resting or pressing signs on the head and face of volunteer escorts. There was discussion of what constitutes a violation and what combination of things needs to happen to result in a charge. Barbara Sexton-Smith and Brent Ackerson talked about the very real safety risks that we know all too well.

At long last members of the Safety Zone Committee were called to speak. The first speaker read a powerful statement about the need for a 20 foot zone to allow people to walk to the doctor un-accosted. She also spoke of the initiative that brought us the drop off zone in front of the clinic, which allows one car to stop and let a passenger exit the vehicle close to the clinic, but how the swarming that takes place in the ten foot stretch between the car and the clinic property is still a huge safety risk.

Our next speaker talked about the level of harassment which has become the status quo on the sidewalk, and how that level of aggression can be dangerous. As a resident of the district in which the clinic is located, she found it appalling that every Kentuckian seeking abortion access has no choice but to be subjected to a gauntlet when accessing legal medical care. Perhaps most importantly, this speaker had an opportunity to share with Metro Council members data from the client surveys.

After the second of four scheduled speakers, Chair David James informed us all that the room was needed for the next committee meeting, and that this discussion would be open for comments again in July. We do not yet know what the date for this will be, but are preparing. Councilwoman Barbara Sexton-Smith asked to make a quick note for the sake of clarity that there is not currently a proposal for a Safety Zone at EMW, and Councilman James adjourned the meeting.

Queue the yelling antis. Yes, really. Two antis who had joined the crowd after their street preaching session stood in the aisle yelling loudly at the Metro Council members. It was similar to how they yell at patients outside the clinic. The main differences were that inside Metro Hall they were not amplifying their voices as high as 90 decibels, holding giant gory signs, or in the words our first speaker: “within knifing distance” of the council members, like they are to the patients companions, and escorts. Since this is the same group pledging to violate any law that may be enacted, we’re kind of glad Metro Council got a good look at their behavior.

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Sidewalk Snippet 061017

We had an unusually nice, low-key Saturday this week. With all the additional chaos on the sidewalk over the past month, it was a relief to have no media presence, our most extreme and vocal antis absent for the day, no out-of-town “professional, full-time” antis, and a grand total of only 26 antis on the clinic side of the street actively engaging people. Escorts actually matched antis’ numbers pretty evenly, which is a rare occurrence even on a weekday, and not something I think I’ve seen at all on a Saturday. As a rule, Saturdays are the “bad days.”

With the exception of the “yellow vesters,” this past Saturday could almost have been a weekday. Catholic regulars lined the sidewalk in front of the clinic flower bed and the street, creating a small gauntlet for clients walking from 1st street. It was actually even quiet enough to hear them praying. A handful of antis were mobile and confronting and following clients with literature about the CPC next door, but there weren’t numerous large signs blocking the sidewalk. Later in the morning, a small group of “Catholics on parade” showed up, but the group always stays across the street.

I’ve been doing this a little more than three years now, and I think I’ve seen one day where there were no antis present at the clinic. It was a weekday, during winter. The weather was brutal; well below freezing, and the roads were still a mess. Whether the antis just didn’t want to be out in that or thought the clinic was closed, I don’t know. But it was the one day I saw clients in Louisville get to access abortion care without interference.

Never happen on a Saturday, especially during warm weather. This past Saturday was about as good as it gets. And while for escorts it’s all relative and this week was “not bad,” we know that for clients that’s not the case. How do you really prepare yourself for being approached by a pack of pushy strangers as you’re going to a doctor’s appointment?

It’s still horrible out here, even on days when it’s less horrible.

Sidewalk Snippet – 06/03/17

Saturdays on the sidewalk are loud. Intentionally so. On Saturdays, anti-choice protestors use amplifiers and loudspeakers to harass patients. Once patients make it into the clinic, noise from the loudspeakers pierces the glass separating the waiting room and the sidewalk.

This past Saturday, I tried out a decibel measuring app on my phone. Standing 30 feet from a loudspeaker on a tripod, the app was reading at an average of 89db. On the sidewalk, directly next to the speaker, stood 2 children of the man operating the speaker. If I was reading 89db from 30 feet away, how loud must the speaker have been for those children?

When a patient is walking into the clinic, it’s common for a protestor to declare that they would raise the child in lieu of the woman having an abortion. Isn’t the message undercut when it’s delivered over a loudspeaker at dangerous levels for the children the protestor has with him?

Extremists FAIL to close KY’s only clinic

This morning Rusty Thomas lead a sit-in, blockading the entrance to the clinic in a clear attempt to prevent access to EMW. About a dozen people including a few minors (one infant) sat on the clinic’s property and refused to move, while at least 100 onlookers gathered around, creating the wildest spectacle I’ve seen in my 18 years as a Louisville Clinic Escort.

I was approaching the entrance with a client, just a few minutes after the doors were unlocked. We were having the usual light conversation when I observed that the scene at the door was different than the usual massive cluster fuck of bullies. Instead of anti’s swarming at us and lining the sidewalk with signs, they were all tightly packed near the entrance. Then I noticed everyone was holding their phones up and pointing them at a swarm of people who I could tell were on the property. I told the person I was walking with that it looked like some trespassing was happening, and invited her to step to the other side of the parked cars and continue walking with me around the block. I figured we would head to her car and figure it out from there. Once we passed the clinic and rounded the corner, other escorts told me to head to the alley, where escorts were holding space at the back gate, which is usually reserved for clinic staff. We were able to walk folks to the alley and in the back door and NO APPOINTMENTS WERE MISSED thanks to the quick actions of escorts and staff who train to stay focused on safety and client needs.

Police were already on the scene, and responded pretty quickly, but were generally helpful and gentle to the offenders who face trespassing charges, and were in clear violation of the FACE Act. I can’t help but notice the contrast between the treatment that this type of behavior is met with compared to how individuals within the Movement for Black Lives are treated by law enforcement……

After holding space at the alley driveway for period I moved to the front of the building again where police had blocked the street and were detaining the trespassers on the opposite side of the street from the clinic. The remainder of the morning’s debacle was broadcast live from our Every Saturday Morning Facebook page. Watch that here: https://www.facebook.com/LouClinicEscrts/videos/10154291275180146/ or at the bottom of this post.

We are really thankful to everyone who has reached out and offered LCE support this morning. Our volunteers did a fabulous job of showing up for access this morning. We know we have not seen the last of this sort of behavior, and we expect the worst from these extremist terrorists. Contributions to LCE legal defense fund can be made via paypal to everysaturdaymorning@gmail.com.

#EMWStaysOpen!!!

The Company You Keep – by Avocado

Probably the last thing the world needs is yet another dude’s opinion on reproductive rights and abortion access. Unfortunately, that’s all I have to offer as I watch powerful, mostly white men decide the fate of EMW Women’s Surgical Center, Kentucky’s last remaining abortion clinic.

I’ve been volunteering as an escort with Every Saturday Morning (ESM) since July 2016 and ithat short period of time has been a roller coaster.

Sure, there is some good. The volunteers with ESM are some of the kindest, most compassionate people I’ve ever met. As a man, I was unsure of how welcome I would feel or how well I would fit in with ESM. It is, after all, an organization centered around women’s rights and its membership is comprised mostly of women. I try to live my life by listening, trusting and respecting women, and for that, I was met with open arms. Every day on the sidewalk escorting clients past hateful anti-abortion activists makes me feel like I’m helping in some small way and there’s no one I’d rather do that with than the other ESM volunteers.

And then there’s everything else. The short amount of 2017 that has passed has been a violent, hateful slog. In January, protestor Angela Minter was selected by Bevin to be a part of the University of Louisville’s Board of Trustees selection committee. This is the same Angela Minter that harasses women outside of EMW, has been filmed trespassing on clinic property and just a few weeks after this appointment, would be photographed pressing a sign into the face of a clinic escort.

Angela at entrance (3) 02182017

On January 21st, the day after the inauguration of Donald Trump, a clinic escort was knocked to the ground by Aaron Sabie, a member of Psalm 82 Ministries (or Psalm 82 Reformation Media as they’ve recently rebranded). LMPD has not and will not press charges against Sabie.

P82 joined with Operation Save America (OSA), and OSA held their leadership conference in Louisville in February. Over 150 protestors clogged the sidewalks, harassing patients with graphic signs and loudspeakers. Speaking of graphic signs, OSA/P82 left the clinic and took those signs to a middle school and high school. Their protest outside Noe Middle and Manual High was disturbing enough that those schools sent an email to parents assuring them that their children were safe. After they finished their protest at these schools, they had a meeting with Governor Bevin. The governor offered encouragement to these extremists when he addressed them.
Governor Bevin Addressing Leadership Meeting OSA 020317

Joseph, Aaron, Mason meet Gov Bevin (2) 021417

Which brings us to today. Governor Bevin has described himself as “unapologetically Pro-life” and is attempting to make Kentucky the first state to have citizens without access to abortions. He has ordered EMW closed starting Monday, April 3rd, based on a licensing technicality. This license is good through the end of May 2017, yet the KY Cabinet of Health and Human Services suddenly finds a deficiency with the document.

Their goal is transparent. They wish to end access to safe, legal abortion in Kentucky. Governor Matt Bevin will happily tout that he’s the governor who removed a woman’s right to choose in Kentucky. Will he be there to gleefully accept credit the first time a Kentucky woman dies of sepsis from an unsafe, underground abortion? What about the first time a Kentucky woman suffers genital disfigurement while attempting to perform an abortion on herself because she can’t afford to travel out of state?

No. Governor Matt Bevin won’t be there for the poor, rural citizens of Kentucky that this will affect the most; nor will Minter, Sabie, Joseph Spurgeon, Rusty Thomas, or any of the other toxic company that Bevin keeps.

As a male ally and volunteer, I’m disgusted by the individuals listed above. I walk on that sidewalk every day with my only assumption being that each patient is making the decision that’s best for her.  At the base of all this for me, as a man, is that I can have all the empathy in the world for a woman seeking to terminate a pregnancy, but I’ll never truly be able to understand what she’s going through. I listen to women, I trust what they’re saying, and I respect both their thoughts and their bodily autonomy. I wish there was a way I could magically explain that to the people above and I hope any potential ally will read and take that advice.

When I began writing this post, EMW and its supporters were anxiously awaiting to hear if a federal judge would grant a temporary restraining order against the state’s order of closure. Now, several hours later, EMW has its order granted and will remain open for the time being. This will continue to be a fight over the next several months, particularly at the end of May when the clinic’s license expires. And I’ll be there, side by side with some of the strongest people I’ve had the pleasure of meeting.

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