Pledge-A-Picketer 2016

We started the Pledge-A-Picketer fundraiser in 2010, and have been doing it every year since then with great success.  It’s a simple fundraiser. You pledge whatever you choose for each protester who shows up, we count the protesters, and the more of them there are, the more money we raise for escorts and abortion access. Escorts use this fund drive for legal expenses, training costs, safety supplies, parking fees for patients and other miscellany.

Traditionally there are three big event days when a large number of anti-abortion protesters come to the clinic. The Saturday before Easter, the Saturday before Mother’s Day and the Saturday before Father’s Day used to be the biggest protester days of the year at EMW Women’s Surgical Center. When we first started the Pledge-A-Picketer fundraiser, we targeted the Saturday before Mother’s Day as the day to count protesters.  As the numbers on this day have dropped, some protesters have attributed the drop to them not wanting to contribute to the success of our fundraiser. I don’t really believe them. I think they are having problems bringing out large numbers because of more public awareness that abortion is part of healthcare and a human right. Plus, the sidewalk anti-abortion people are being viewed as the bullies they are by more people.

Here is the history of their turnouts from the years we counted. Notice the dropping numbers.

  • Easter weekend: From 170 protesters in 2009 to 60 protesters in 2016.
  • Mother’s Day weekend: From 275-325 protesters in 2009 to 100 protesters in 2015
  • Father’s Day weekend: From 300 protesters in 2009 to 108 protesters in 2015

Last year we combined the Saturday before Easter, the Saturday before Mother’s Day, and the Saturday before Father’s Day and called it Spring Pledge-a-Picketer. This year we are targeting the Saturday before Father’s Day as the only day of the campaign. Father’s Day is June 19, so our campaign will be on Saturday, June 18.

The day before Father’s Day remains a large turnout day for anti-abortion protesters, mostly because it is the day the Sisters for Life come out. Sisters for Life members, including their director, Mrs. Angela Minter, do “sidewalk counseling” weekly in front of the clinic. Angela is known to harass people she recognizes and then call their family members to report they went into the clinic. That’s not really counseling, but you can see for yourself. Here is a video of her being carried out of the clinic when she trespassed following in someone she recognized.

 

This is a different Angela than she presents in front of the news cameras or when she endorsed Senate candidate Matt Bevin.

This will be the 8th year Sisters for Life has their fundraising drive of “Fathers for Life Day Walk or Bike.” They charge a registration that gets everyone a matching t-shirt and walk or bike to the clinic to carry signs, sing and block the sidewalk and entrance of the clinic.

A picture and a video is worth a 1000 words. Here’s FML’s article from last year’s demonstration on Father’s Day weekend. We stood in the pouring rain, fighting umbrellas while being sung to over and over. My personal favorites are the songs they make up on the spur of the moment. They don’t always go as intended and are frequently unintentionally funny.

How can you pledge? Go to this link and fill out the simple form. When you fill out the form it will record your pledge to help us reach our goals. You will receive an email from us within 24 hours confirming we have received the pledge.

We will publish the count of protesters shortly after Father’s Day along with instructions for payment.

How can you help? Share this with your friends, or anyone you think would be interested.

 

Saturday before Father’s Day 2015

It rained.  Not the whole time, and not a downpour, but it rained steadily.  That cut back on the number of protesters – at least I guess it was the rain that kept some of the regulars at home.

But ~ to make up for that ~ the Sisters for Life came down earlier than usual this year.  Their numbers were down a bit too, but there are enough of  them to block the sidewalk effectively.

From across the street:

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(Image is of a crowd of people facing away from the camera, toward the clinic, stretching three or four car lengths down the sidewalk. Many of them hold umbrellas. You can see a child’s wagon, with an umbrella just above it.  A couple of escorts in orange vests are visible.)

Clients have to make their way through this:

(Video pans on the sidewalk, shows a bunch of people standing as close together as their umbrellas allow.  If you remember Dominic {he wears camouflage clothing, holds a sign, and yells “Murder!  Murder in the First Degree!!”} you can see him from the back.  One woman’s voice can be heard preaching loudly, but I have trouble distinguishing the words.  My best shot at transcribing them: ” …dead.   We’re out here (something) for you… God…taking your heart…out here in the name of Jesus… Thank you, Lord, for you have already done according to your word…)

Or this:

{A few voices singing “How Great is Our God”)

Or even this:

(Female voice, VERY loud:  He gave you WILL, not a woman’s CHOICE but WILL ~ to make the right decision ~ That is to CHOOSE LIFE ~ for your PRE-BORN BABY! Choose life for your pre-born baby! There’s help for you!

It’s an ugly morning.  A few protesters use their umbrellas to “accidentally” poke or hit escorts standing on the property line.  Some clients and companions have to shove their way through the crowd as the protesters yell at them.

I’m walking with a client when one of the chasers steps on the back of her flip flop.  Yes.  The client is walking to her doctor’s appointment at the clinic.  A young woman in a green vest is chasing her, begging her not to ‘kill her baby.’  This chaser gets so close up behind the client that she steps on the client’s flip flop.  Fortunately, the client’s foot comes out of the flop, so she doesn’t end up face down on the ground.  But she has to hop a step or two in the rain back to retrieve her shoe, while the chaser continues to preach and lecture.

It’s ridiculous and outrageous.

We call the police to clear a path to the door.  We’ve called the police out more than once lately.  Two Saturdays in a row, two different white male preachers blasting their words at over 100 decibels, which violates the noise ordinance (and can cause damage to your hearing.)  There is privilege inherent in being able to call the police with an expectation of help (although we’re never quite sure what the response will be.)

Escorts calling the police when it’s a predominantly black church group  is uncomfortable.  It doesn’t make me feel like a good ally.  That’s a whole other aspect to consider, and it takes us a while to decide to call.

The police come just as we’re almost done – the clients are already in.  The officers don’t think they can do much of anything to help – First Amendment, they have a right to be here – and of course that’s true.*  They don’t realize they’ve already helped just by showing up.  Just their presence changes the behavior of the protesters.

An escort who had been standing on the property line with her back to the protesters describes it.   “…you could feel the difference in many small ways that added up to me being able to take a deep breath and wonder why things felt better. The sounds weren’t in my ear, I couldn’t feel body heat anymore, nothing had poked or jostled me for several minutes. I actually didn’t know that that was when the police had arrived until after. I could never even see them, actually. Even just from the sidelines, they changed total chaos into a five-foot gap between me and the protesters.”

I’m glad the police came; glad they are low key.

And I’m a bit disheartened by an officer who, when an escort expresses concern that the protesters might hurt someone, responds, “Emotions run high.  That is the chance you take by being out here.”

As if the sidewalk is a free-for-all zone for the protesters and the escorts.  Sigh. The sidewalk is a sidewalk, the path that clients and companions have to travel to get to their doctor’s office.  It’s not a battleground.  And this is not a battle between us and the protesters.  It’s about the client.

The protesters want to stop the clients from getting an abortion.  We want to support the client’s decision.    The protesters are a distraction from our reason for being there, and when we focus on them, we risk losing sight of the client.

It’s so hard to remember that.  And so important.

We have to deal with the protesters – that’s unavoidable.  We need effective ways to de-escalate the variety of situations they present.  Sometimes we ignore them.  Sometimes we call the police.  But if we let dealing with the antis become our main focus, the client loses, and so do we.

It’s a lot to process, a lot to think about.  And it’s not why I started this post.

I started this post because this Saturday – the day before Father’s Day – was the last of the Spring Pledge-a-Picketer days.  How many protesters were there this week?  That’s the big question.  And the answer is….

Drum-roll, please…. 108 antis

(and 75 umbrellas…)**

Easter was 79, and Mothers’ Day was 100, so that gives us a grand total of 287.

Thanks to all of you who pledged – we’ll have financial results in soon.  In the meantime, here’s what it was like walking from First Street to the clinic this week.

*Blocking the entrance and intimidating clients may be a FACE act* violation, which the local officers aren’t prepared to enforce.  They might even be unaware of the law.

**No, I didn’t count the umbrellas.  I just made that number up – it’s a “seems like” number.  Seems like there were 75 umbrellas…

We Win Again

Only 100 protesters turned up on Saturday before Mother’s Day.  You know the deal – Pledge-a-Picketer, the more anti’s show up, the more money we make from the fundraiser.  It was always a win-win proposition – if lots of protesters show up, good for us, if not so many show up, good for us – and the clients. Here’s the history.

2009 – between 275 and 325 protesters.  (This was the year that inspired the fund-raiser.)

2010 – 255 protesters, 89 escorts

2011 – Closed for Derby Day

2012 – 151 protesters, 40 escorts

2013 – 315 protesters, ? escorts {can’t find the count for this year, sorry.}

2014 – 103 protesters, 60 escorts  {Donna tells the escorts that the numbers are low because they know about the fund-raiser we do so they stay away.  YAY – that’s a win for us too!}

And now ~~ this year ~~ drumroll please ~~ i

100 protesters, 35 escorts

Yep, that’s it.  I know, it’s a little ho-hum.  Here’s what it looked like:

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It was a lovely sea of orange up by the front door.

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Here’s what it sounded like.

Chad, standing on his step stool, preaches to the men:

“Turn back to God and become the man that God intended you to be!   Don’t stand up th~~ Take off your orange vests, men, and pick up your Bible {thumping on the Bible} and read it!  And heed it!  That was God’s intention for you!  That was God’s intent!  He said for us to rule this world – subdue the planet – to control it!!”

Lovely, right?  And this:

Chad says:

No thieves, no covetous, no drunkards, no revilers, no extortionists shall inherit the kingdom of God.  {Leans over and points at me}   Fear God, repent of your sins, and put your faith and trust in Jesus Christ.  {unintelligible} eternal life.

I am not sure which of those types of sinners I am – I mean, possibly all of them, but I don’t know which one he’s accusing me of being.  Baby killer is my usual gig ~ in their view ~ although, for the record I have not actually killed any babies, either pre-born or post.  So I’m a little baffled, but that’s ok.  I don’t want to have a conversation with him about it or anything.

Because we’re doing a Spring Pledge-a-Picketer this year, we still have one more day to go before we tally up on fundraising.  The Saturday before Father’s Day is another special occasion, famous for the parade that comes in from a nearby church.  Lots of singing and excitement – i would kind of like if they would just do it somewhere else.  Here’s what it was like last year:

It’s a gospel song, and mostly says, “Shout for victory, Shout for the Lord.”

So it’s not too late to make your pledge for Pledge-a-Picketer.   So far, we’re are at 179 protesters.  You can pledge here, with either a specific amount per person or by pledging a lump sum for the whole horde of protesters.

https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1cATk530BlUVRVofUMNaNHU1yo9FvN78ByX-_rHzWbtk/viewform

What They Said…

Our newest fund raiser – Antis Say the Darnedest Things – ended Saturday.  Remember?  Some of us pledged money for every time a specific protester said a specific thing, only we couldn’t publish which ones we were tracking ’cause then they might quit saying that thing.  Well, here’s what they said.

Donna:

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(Picture shows Donna in a light blue coat, arms folded across her chest, disapproving look on her face, saying YOUR RELATIONSHIP WILL NEVER BE THE SAME}

And Dominic:

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{Dominic is in his camoflauge gear and holding his “Before I formed you in the womb….” sign. He says: MURDER IN THE FIRST DEGREE.}

Keep in mind that Donna is at the clinic every, single day.  Dominic is generally only there on Saturday.  So how many times did they say their thing?

Donna –  Your relationship will never be the same – 21 times

Dominic – Murder in the First Degree – 29 times

Amazing.

We are still tabulating results for the pledges, but I understand that Donna has raised $208 for us all by herself.  Funds will be used for a variety of needs – winter supplies like salt for the sidewalk or hand and foot warmers; breakfasts for escort trainings, help with parking expenses and other miscellaneous needs.  Often, we share the funds with one of our sister organizations who provide hands on support for abortion access.

I’ll let you know what the total is for Dominic when I know.  Thanks to him and Donna for helping us, albeit unintentionally, as we support people seeking access to abortion, .

In the meantime, the first results are in from our Springtime Pledge-a-Picketer fundraiser.  You know, once upon a time (um, last year) we just did this fundraiser for the Saturday before Mother’s Day.  We used to have hundreds of protesters show up – really, hundreds.  But the last few years, the turn-out for that Saturday has been kind of pitiful.  Last year, they had a huge turn-out for the Saturday before Easter, and sometimes they show up in droves for the Saturday before Father’s Day.

So we began to wonder if they were purposely staying away because we do the fund-raiser.  Seriously.  It seemed like the other days got bigger and Mother’s Day kept shrinking.  So this year we decided to combine them all.   That way, if rain or sleet or hail  – or the knowledge that abortion access is improved by their presence – keeps them away from one big day, we’ll catch them on another one.  So – drum roll please – on the Saturday before Easter there were  ~~ 79 protesters.

Yeah.  That’s it.  A weak turnout.  Maybe they’ll have a better showing on May 9th.  I won’t say I hope so – if they don’t show, of course that’s good for us too, and even better for the client.  What a terrific win-win.

Finally – I have to say this here so I don’t say it on the sidewalk.  This is really to Donna:

“Your relationship will never be the same???  What are you thinking?   Do you think their relationship will be the same if they go ahead and have this baby???   Cause I’m pretty sure that’s gonna be a HUGE frigging change!!  What are you thinking?”

Oh, that’s right, she’s not.

Ok, whew, I feel better now that I’ve said it.  Thanks.

***********************************************

And it’s not too late to pledge for Pledge-a-Picketer.   You know how it works – you can pledge a certain amount per protester, or just pledge a set amount regardless.  Here’s the link to make a pledge.

Pledge-a-Picketer

Pledge-a-Picketer Annual Fundraiser 2015

It’s that time of the year!

Our annual pledge-a-picketer fundraiser has launched! And this year, there’s a little twist.

The day before Mother’s Day is one of the most-attended days of the year for antis, and in 2010, we decided to turn that discouraging mob into a real asset and launched Pledge-a-Picketer.

It’s a simple fundraiser. You pledge a given amount for each protester who shows up, we count the protesters, and the more of them there are, the more money we raise for escorts (vests, training costs, and other miscellany) and abortion access.

And now for the twist:

The other two big days for protesters are Easter and Father’s Day. This year, we’ve decided to do an extended Pledge-a-Picketer by including these two days in our tally for a Spring Pledge-a-Picketer.

You can help raise funds for abortion access by pledging a small amount per picketer, or by pledging a lump sum for the horde of antis who come out to harass and intimidate women seeking legal medical care.

We count the protesters each day, but on Pledge-a-Picketer days, it gives us great glee to know that each number ticked off means more money raised to support the very thing they are there to obstruct.

Also, if you have ever thought about escorting, or if you escort on the big days, like Mother’s Day, mark your calendar. Be sure to check out the Points of Unity, and keep your eyes peeled for our next training in anticipation of getting new escorts up to speed.

It’s time for Pledge-a-Picketer.

Easter: April 5, 2015

Mother’s Day: May 10, 2015

Father’s Day: June 21, 2015

We’ll be posting updates after each big day with the total number of antis, as well as any new sidewalk stories that emerge.

This form will be included in our posts from now through Father’s Day, but don’t wait to til the last minute, pledge now:
Pledge-a-Picketer Pledge Form

And the Results Are…

Yes, the moment you’ve all been waiting for – the results are in – the head count for Pledge-a-Picketer!   Drum roll, please…

Protesters – 103.  

Escorts – 60.

Yes, you read that right.  There were *only* 103 protesters at the clinic on Saturday.  And 60 escorts.  Not even a 2:1 ratio.

Of course, that doesn’t mean it was all fun and games.  We had a relatively new protester preaching at the front door.   She didn’t like it when she realized one of the escorts was videotaping her.  (Thanks to wenches for the video.)

*transcript at the end of post

I have some other video of her, and it made me sad, listening to the things she said to the clients.  She was so sincere about sharing her experience – apparently, she changed her mind about having an abortion, and has been glad of that.   Because of that, she assures the clients that having this baby won’t ruin their life, they’ll still reach their goals.  How does she know?  Because she did. She tells them:

I know your life will turn around because my life turned around. When me and my husband made the decision to keep our child, it was the best decision we ever made in our life. Keep your child today. And to this day, I am still married to the same man. And to this day, we get to experience the love of our child that we did not kill, that we almost killed. Don’t kill your child today. Hear a mother talking to you – don’t kill your child today. It still affects me today – that I almost killed my child. Don’t kill your child today. But I get to kiss my child, I get to hug my child…

It seems so naive to me, the belief that because that worked out for her, it will be the same for everyone.  As if everyone has exactly the same issues she had, the same resources, the same choices.  It seems naive and cruel, cruel in the same way as Andrew telling everyone how excited he was about his unborn baby.   As if the antis can’t quite comprehend that their personal experience is not normative.

Anyhow.

The fundraiser was a great success. We received 30 pledges.  We received pledges from 3 countries (US, Canada, Australia). We received pledges from 8 states in the US (KY, IN, OH, VA, CA, MD, TX, AR)   And despite the poor turnout of protesters, we raised $1,043 so far, but the final total will be more than that as some late pledges come in.  Those funds will be split between escorts and Ky Support Network, an abortion fund acting as a program under Ky Health Justice Network.

We were surprised how (comparatively) few protesters came out.  But we figured a lot of the protesters chose to stay home because of the rain.  {Ok, we may have made some snarky comments about that among ourselves, but I’m not personally judging anybody’s commitment to “saving babies” based on their willingness to stand in the pouring down rain – or lack thereof .}

However, one of the protesters explained it differently to one of the escorts, when he commented on the low turnout.  She said:

“Yes, we planned it that way, so you won’t get as much money,”

to which the escort joyously replied,

“YES! Our plan is working!”

The protester looked a bit crestfallen.  As you can imagine.

But that’s been the point all along – the ultimate win-win for us – and the clients.  If the protesters show up in huge numbers, we make more money for vests and trainings and direct funding for abortion access.  If they don’t show up – well, it’s a victory for the clients who don’t have a to walk a 300 person gauntlet, and yay for us.

It’s always a relief – another Mother’s Day under our belts.  Thanks to the new escorts and occasional escorts who came out for Mother’s Day, thanks to the folks who pledged money, and thanks to everyone who supports the right to a full range of reproductive health services.

*Transcript  of the video:

You wanna take a picture of me? You videotaping? What are you doing? What are you doing? God bless you. God loves you. God loves you and I pray that you never come on this sidewalk again. Because he does not want you to do this. You don’t realize that you’re leading the mothers off to kill their babies to the slaughter. They’re actually taking them down into the basement and they’re actually sucking the baby out of the womb. Out of the womb and throwing the baby in the garbage. The baby is a human being. (turns away.) Thank you, Lord. Thank you, Lord.

 

PSA – & Pledge Time!!

If you have an appointment at EMW, do NOT park in this lot.

IMG_0001If you have an appointment at EMW, do NOT park in this lot.

If you can’t see the picture, the sign says:

EMW PATIENTS

WILL NOT BE TOWED

IF YOU OBTAIN

A PARKING PERMIT

AT THE FRONT DESK

ENTER THROUGH

GLASS DOOR ON THE LEFT.

DON’T DO IT!!

The glass door is the entrance to the fake clinic, the “we-are-too-a-clinic” the “we care about you, all our services are free” clinic, the “let-us-do-a-free- ultrasound (that can’t be used for anything) while we preach at you” clinic.   That clinic.

Yes, it’s misleading.  Deceptive.  Manipulative.  But they deal in lies anyhow.  They will say, “Lies?  There’s no lies there.”  And that’s true.  It’s just deceptive. I don’t think it’s illegal.

Yes, I think they’re doing it in hopes of making people miss their doctor’s appointment.  They will say they’re not.  It doesn’t matter – t don’t think we can do anything about it.  But we’ve already had one person who saw “EMW PATIENTS” and went in thinking it was EMW.

So I’m telling you – the people who read here.  Feel free to spread the word.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 I usually like for posts to be up a few days before we post a new one, but this I wanted the parking lot warning to go up quickly.  But if you haven’t already read Eeyore’s terrific post about the antis lying by the numbers, please click here to read it now.  Go ahead,.  I’lll wait…

Because – since I’ve already started this post, I’ll do this too –

IT’S THAT TIME OF YEAR!!

Yes, Mother’s Day is coming – which means the Saturday before Mother’s Day is also almost here.  Time for our Fifth Annual Escort Fund-Raiser –

Pledge-a-Picketer.

The Saturday before Mother’s Day is the biggest protester day of the year. Antis come from near and far to shame, blame and humiliate clients going to their doctor appointments for an abortion.  Tons of protesters.  Hundreds of them.  Literally – over 300 one year.

So we take all those lemons and – yeah, I know, stupid cliche – but we do it – we make lemonade.  We started pledge-a-picketer so that the more of them that show up, the better it is for us.

You know how it works, right?   You pledge so much for each protester who shows up, we count the protesters, and the more of them there are, the more money we raise for escorts {vests, training costs, and other miscellany} and abortion access.

It is a lovely moment, when most of the protesters have arrived and we get to walk down the line counting. It baffles and annoys them, but it’s the one time that we can enjoy there being plenty of them.

Here’s the link to make your pledge:

https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1xbxdKkjOSsfRnLlCBo86dIVqBHtyntmA-GKLW9QT_I4/viewform

{I know, it’s supposed to be embedded – feel free to edit and fix it, or message me how to do it…}

Take home messages:

~~ Make sure you don’t miss Eeyore’s recent post.

~~ Don’t get tricked into parking in the antis parking lot.

~~ Make your donation for pledge-a-picketer now.

~~ And stay tuned for our next post.

 

 

 

 

And the Number Is…

315.

Three hundred and fifteen.

That’s how many protesters there were.  What does that look like?

IMG_20130511_073450_315

Yes, that’s a stroller ~ lots of families packed up the babies and came on down.  We’re heading up from 1st Street – the clinic is at the awning off in the distance there.  As we keep walking:

IMG_20130511_073505_000

Meanwhile, on the other side of the street, near the $3 parking lot is this:

IMG_20130511_073133_393They used to park this billboard right in front of the clinic, but we make a real effort these days to get there early enough to take up those parking spaces.  One year, we succeeded in leaving him nowhere to park.  That was lovely.

If you’re coming around the corner from the 2nd street side, it looks like this:

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Which is not quite as daunting as walking up through the whole gauntlet from 1st Street.  But regardless of which direction you come from, at the door, you’re greeted with this:

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An excellent example of fetus porn.  And this:

Yes, the “preacher”in this video chides the escorts for “how they treat the women who come there… patting them on the back…”   But I heard another protester say “the women are dumped out at the curb and the escorts drag them into the clinic,” ~ an interesting interpretation of events.

Watching the video, you can tell a client has come around the corner.  The woman in red springs into action.  “You don’t have to kill your baby, someone can help you, PEOPLE WANT YOUR CHILD!” she screams.

Something about that creeps me out, it is as if the client has ceased to exist and is purely an incubator.    I might have thought that was the most chilling thing I heard, if I hadn’t heard a mother talking to her son on their way back to their car.

The woman was clearly pregnant.  The little boy was about five, walking beside and slightly in front of her, holding her hand.  I don’t know what he said, but she replied in that extra sweet voice we sometimes use with our children when we know someone’s listening.  She said, “I know!  It is scary!  I don’t know how these people can want to kill little babies.”

All I can do is shake my head.  And hope that when he’s old enough to understand, someone can explain to him why his mother would want to take him around people that she believes want to kill little babies.  Cause I sure don’t get it.

New Escort Story ~ by Anonymous

I am a new escort. I cannot speak for all new escorts, but I hope that my post will give both potential future escorts and more experienced escorts some insight into what it is like to be a new clinic escort.

I first heard about the escort group when calls were put out for extra assistance on the day before Easter. My husband and I are very pro-choice, and decided to put our values into action by volunteering as escorts. The email said that you were expected to not engage/argue with the protesters and I figured I could handle it. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect in terms of the number of protesters (or their volume) but figured there might be people holding signs and yelling. My husband and I were given clinic escort vests and a brief rundown – ask people if they want to be escorted, walk at their speed, don’t engage with the protesters, don’t touch the protesters (or they’ll cry “assault!”), keep talking even if it’s just about the weather, to just keep the client’s attention away from the screaming.

In the chaos, I somehow found myself escorting from the $3 lot. (Please know that this is unusual! New escorts typically undergo a lot of shadowing before actually escorting). It was a quick frenzy of jaywalking (at the client’s request), shouting protesters, and emotion. My mind didn’t even have time to process everything that was happening. One protester ran up to me and bumped into me, trying desperately to reach the client. Everything in my mind cried out, “You will not hurt her!” and in a moment of intense (and selfish) need to feel like I could protect the client, I put my arm around her. The client, her face set with determination, yelled back at the protesters. Just as she reached the door, a protester wailed out, “Don’t DO it, darlin’!” and as suddenly as it had began, it was over. The client was inside the clinic.

It was then that I met one of the senior escorts, as she pulled me aside and helped me to realize that I had just broken one of the fundamental Points of Unity – asking the client’s consent (not just to be escorted, but also to be touched). My heart sank. With the panic of the crowd subsiding, I knew she was right. Logically I had known that, but in the chaos of the moment, there is no logic. As my husband and I walked back across the street to the parking lot, I started to get choked up. I hadn’t realized it was going to be so intense. The raw emotion felt too overwhelming.

We stayed a bit longer. I turned in my vest, thanked the other volunteers, got to my car, and started to cry as I tried to process my first escort experience.

I found myself at the escort training two weeks later. I think I oscillated between “I really want to do this” and “I don’t think I can handle this!” about ten times during the two-hour training.

The same experienced escort from my first experience encouraged me to try again, this time during a weekday morning when the sidewalk tends to be quieter.

My second time escorting was on a weekday morning. Now armed with non-sidewalk training and a deeper insight into the Points of Unity, I felt more confident. Being assigned the sole job of observing for that morning was incredibly helpful. I breathed more, forced myself to mentally slow down the events, allowed myself to process everything at a calmer rate.

In processing my somewhat unique start to escorting, I have realized that I (perhaps like many new escorts) was misdirecting energy during my first experience. In the chaos, I allowed myself to think that clients needed protection. This is not an unusual thought, I suppose, when you actually get a glimpse of some of the more vocal and hysterical protesters. The whole experience felt dramatic, frenzied, and full of helplessness. After the training, I saw clearly that the experience was about empowerment. We provide the space for clients to be empowered by always asking consent, by remaining calm and quiet, and by not engaging with the protesters.

Psychologists often speak of learning as a process of using what you know to navigate the world. People use mental scripts to guide expectations of what to do in new situations. For example, a mental script for ordering food in a restaurant can help you learn how to order food at a drive through.

There is no script for escorting on the sidewalk. Nothing in my life had prepared me for the chaos from the protesters. All of the implicit, unspoken rules we use for engaging with people in our daily life (turn-taking, respecting personal space, not yelling at strangers) seem to be forgotten by the protesters. For new escorts, facing this bizarre situation with no mental framework for guidance is a disorienting and chaotic experience! The escort training (both formal and on-the-sidewalk training) has been helpful in providing guidance. Even so, as a new escort, it feels very unsettling to not have a mental script to help me process events on the sidewalk. There is nothing in my daily life that helps me relate to this bizarre occurrence of people showing up daily to harass other people who are just trying to make the walk from their car to their doctor’s office.

To the more seasoned escorts: I am trying, I am listening, and I will do my best. I will probably still beat myself up for mistakes, no matter how many times you tell me not to. I still feel anxious at times, even though you teach me the “thousand-yard stare” that gives me a serene face to present toward the protesters. I am still trying to manage my emotions in a way that will allow me to provide a calm presence for the clients and their companions. And despite all of this, I will still show up to escort, even though there is still a part of me that doubts that my money wouldn’t be more helpful than my physical presence. As one experienced escort put into words, “I don’t think I can do this, but I know I have to do this”. How very true.

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REMINDER: Our annual  fund drive Pledge-A-Picketer is NOW!

The Saturday before Mother’s Day is the biggest protester day of the year.  It also is the date  where we count protesters for donations to support the pro-choice effort and the escorts.  You can pledge a certain amount for each protester showing up that morning. If you prefer, you can also make a straight monetary donation.

Use this form to make your pledge:

 

 

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Sidewalk Snippet ~ {5/6/13}

Spring in the Ohio Valley means a lot of rainfall. As I have said before, this always has good and bad associated with it as far as escorting is concerned.

We had no problems getting clients and companions to the clinic entrance. There were fewer antis out, but most stayed grouped under the overhang. While our walks were wet, we had only a couple of antis walking the sidewalk with their umbrellas. The clients were able to walk without a lot of interference.

However, when we reached the entrance we had to navigate around antis with their umbrellas up blocking the entrance. When I said, “You are blocking the entrance,” to one anti who works for AWC the reply was, “No, I am not.”

Three antis were standing with their umbrellas up across the entrance. The companion had to push a little to get through and bumped the anti’s umbrella. I pointed out she blocked the last client only to be told, “He got in.”

Yes they did, but it is still blocking when huge umbrellas are added to the people.

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REMINDER: Our annual  fund drive Pledge-A-Picketer is NOW!

The Saturday before Mother’s Day is the biggest protester day of the year.  It also is the date  where we count protesters for donations to support the pro-choice effort and the escorts.  You can pledge a certain amount for each protester showing up that morning. If you prefer, you can also make a straight monetary donation.

Use this form to make your pledge:

 


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