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As the anti-abortion organization Operation Rescue (OR—see 1986) prepares to launch a wave of protests during its summer “Cities of Refuge” offensive (see July 9-19, 1993), the Orlando Sentinel publishes an extensive examination of the organization, titled “Inside Operation Rescue.” The article examines the large number of protesters who have just graduated from the Institute of Mobilized Prophetic Activated Christian Training (IMPACT), a 12-week “boot camp” aimed at giving protesters intensive training in protest and harassment tactics against abortion clinics, medical personnel, and clients.
Tactics Glean Information, Gain Access, Enable Harassment and 'Sidewalk Counseling' - Some tactics, the article notes, are familiar to private detectives: “[t]rack down license plate numbers to obtain addresses of clinic employees, then follow them to supermarkets, hotels, and other public places where they can be confronted. Snap photographs. Run video cameras. Find Social Security numbers and check financial records. Infiltrate clinics by posing as patients. Befriend a clinic worker’s son, then preach to him about the sins of his mother. Dig up dirt through court and other government records. File as many lawsuits as possible.” Lawyers and private detectives explained to the IMPACT members how far they could push the freedom of speech and privacy laws in order to successfully harass and intimidate medical personnel and clients, including the use of sophisticated surveillance equipment, of toxic chemicals to be sprayed into clinics, and of bomb threats and death threats left on home and clinic answering machines. (OR officially denies using such tactics.) The graduates learned the techniques of “sidewalk counseling,” which involves targeting pregnant women and “counseling” them not to have abortions, using dolls and photographs of aborted fetuses when necessary. They learned how to use their own children to shield them from police officers, sometimes even pushing the children into police cordons to be arrested. Others learned how to masquerade as women seeking pregnancy counseling in order to gain access to the clinics, and how to disrupt operations once inside the clinic; these women are called “truth team” members. Some were trained to befriend pregnant women or their family members, and use information gleaned from the encounters to target them at their homes or places of work. Some even learned a technique they call “invoking a curse” on recalcitrant pregnant women or medical personnel, a technique one OR member calls the “save ‘em or slay ‘em” tactic.” (One pro-choice activist tells reporter Sarah Tippit, “I’ve had these people stand in my face and scream at the top of their lungs, ‘I pray for your death in the name of God, in the name of Jesus.’”
'FemiNazis' and 'Human Pesticides' - The group’s rhetoric includes labeling birth control pills “human pesticides,” and calling women who support abortion choices “femi-Nazis,” “lesbians who want to deny the true role of women,” and “Aryan supremacists” who fear that poor minorities will someday overrun them. One woman explains to a reporter how Christian women practice birth control: “God will open and close your womb” as necessary.
Practicing Techniques on Florida Clinic - OR calls the training “preparation for spiritual warfare.” Florida resident Meredith Raney, an IMPACT graduate, says, “Anything we can learn and use to embarrass or encourage anyone, especially doctors, to stop working, we’ll use it.” The Melbourne, Florida, Aware Woman Clinic for Choice is targeted for “practice” protests by IMPACT graduates readying for the summer offensive. The protesters jam the telephones of the clinic with thousands of phone calls designed to keep potential clients from contacting the clinic, and swarm the clinic on a daily basis. In response, the clinic and pro-choice groups assemble a group of defenders—bikers, off-duty police officers, and volunteers whose responsibility is to keep the protesters from invading the clinic or blocking traffic to and from it. A surveillance video camera and microphone record the events taking place in the parking lot and on the sidewalks around the clinic. On the day Tippit covers the protest at Aware, many of the techniques are in effect, including “sidewalk counseling,” harassment and challenging of clients (some of whom have removed the license plates from their cars, or walk through the crowds of protesters brandishing baseball bats or stun guns), and pushing children into the arms of police officers to be arrested. (Tippit 6/6/1993)
OR Leader Tells of Training - In a February 1993 interview conducted for the anti-abortion publication The Forerunner, OR leader Keith Tucci told of the two months of training his organization was holding for the event, which, according to the interview, is “not just to block abortion clinics, but to also influence every facet of society in ridding our nation of legalized child killing.” Interviewer Jay Rogers, referring to the 1991 Wichita blockade, asked, “So instead of having one Wichita, there will be six?” and Tucci responded, “Exactly.” Tucci said that participants would be taught “everything from ‘spiritual warfare’ to ‘How to use the media before they use you.’” He went on to say that OR’s intent was to dissuade communities from allowing abortions to be practiced within their limits, and asked: “Wouldn’t it be wonderful if all the politicians let abortion be legal, but there wasn’t a community in the country who would let an abortionist practice?… We’ve got to make it intolerable and only then will we make it illegal.” (Rogers 2/1993)
The anti-abortion organization Operation Rescue (OR—see 1986) targets abortion and women’s clinics in seven states, as part of a 10-day event it calls “Cities of Refuge.” It intends to close or disrupt clinics in Cleveland, Ohio; Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota; San Jose, California; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas; Jackson, Mississippi; and several cities in central Florida. The event harks back to the 1991 “Summer of Mercy,” which blockaded three clinics in Wichita, Kansas, for 46 days (see July-August 1991), and a smaller blockade in Buffalo, New York, in 1992. City councils and police officials in Cleveland, San Jose, Philadelphia, and St. Paul are taking measures to ensure the safety of doctors, staff members, and patients; Philadelphia police officer John Norris says, “We’re ready for anything that comes down the pike.” Activist Eric Johns and his wife Michelle are in Jackson preparing for the protests. He tells reporters: “We hope to put these places out of business, expose abortionists to their community, embarrass them for what they do, expose staff workers at these places, and eventually shut down the whole isly abortion industry in the state of Mississippi. I think I have a biblical responsibility and am commanded by God [sic] to do what I’m doing.” Jeanie Hollis of the Mississippi Women’s Medical Clinic in Jackson responds: “They will not close us down. If a patient wants an abortion, we will figure out a way to get them in the clinic.” Dianne Straus of the Cherry Hill, New Jersey, Women’s Center says she fears more anti-abortion violence, and recalls the recent murder of a Florida abortion provider, Dr. David Gunn (see March 10, 1993). (Associated Press 7/5/1993; Berry 7/19/1993) As a result of the protests, Florida Judge John Rudd sentences OR leader Keith Tucci to a month in jail for violating a court order during a protest, and blames Tucci for a number of other “good people” being arrested. Rudd actually gives Tucci six months in jail, but suspends the remainder of the sentence on the condition that Tucci obey the court order not to demonstrate inside a “buffer zone” around the Aware Woman Center for Choice in Melbourne, Florida. Rudd also finds 38 other anti-abortion protesters guilty of criminal contempt, and gives them each six months’ probation. Rudd notes an instance in a videotape from one of the protests, when Tucci screamed that a police officer was hurting his two-year-old child; the officer actually placed a protective hand on the child’s back. Rudd accuses Tucci of “hypocrisy and showmanship.” Tucci calls the verdicts an injustice. (Bumpus-Hooper 7/10/1993) A dozen OR activists are arrested in Dallas, after ignoring police orders to stop blocking access to a Dallas woman’s clinic (Bumpus-Hooper 7/14/1993) , and several hundred are arrested in Philadelphia. (Berry 7/19/1993)
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