Arrests made outside abortion clinic

Activists return to Wichita

MSNBC News/July 19, 2001

Wichita, Kansas -- Two people were arrested on Wednesday as tensions rose between abortion opponents and supporters of abortion rights outside a clinic that is the focus of a week of protests. The arrests, the first during the anti-abortion Summer of Mercy renewal campaign, were made after separate shoving incidents between the two sides.

Both people arrested were abortion-rights supporters, police said. They faced misdemeanor battery charges.

Demonstrators had started lining up before sunrise outside the clinic operated by Dr. George Tiller, one of the few doctors in the country who perform late-term abortions. The clinic was bombed in 1985, and Tiller was shot and wounded outside the clinic in 1993.

Jennifer Stark, an intern for the Los Angeles-based Feminist Majority Foundation, was at Tiller's clinic before 5 a.m.

"We wanted to get here early to make sure we got our people out there," she said.

This week's campaign is a a renewal of anti-abortion protests that paralyzed Wichita in 1991, when 2,700 people were arrested in 45 days of demonstrations.

On Tuesday, heat and humidity did what city officials couldn't - limit the abortion opponents' marches in front of Tiller's clinic. The temperature rose above 100 degrees.

Operation Save America, which is sponsoring the protests, said morning and afternoon parades would continue every day through Saturday, but with a slight change in the afternoon because of the heat.

"It's going to be a driving parade. If the heat is too much for you, come in your car and turn on your air conditioning," said Troy Newman of the Los Angeles-based Operation Rescue West, a parade organizer.

On Monday, U.S. District Judge Thomas Marten ruled that the city's denial of a parade permit violated Operation Save America's First Amendment rights. The judge said the demonstrators could march near the clinic each day for an hour in the morning and again in the afternoon.

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