‘Siege of Atlanta’ Ends With 40 More Arrests At Abortion Clinic
ATLANTA (AP) _ Police arrested 40 abortion protesters Saturday at the end of a five-day ″Siege of Atlanta″ that landed more than 450 demonstrators in jail but it was not clear who, if anyone, won.
″They’ll be back and we’ll be here every day they are,″ predicted Police Maj. Kenneth Burnette. Police were criticized for rough handling of demonstrators on the first three days of the week’s protests but used gentler tactics on the last two days.
More than 1,100 anti-abortion demonstrators have been jailed in Atlanta since a group called Operation Rescue began picketing and blocking entrances to abortion clinics during the Democratic National Convention in July.
The group has called a national ″Day of Rescue″ for Oct. 29 and hopes to have demonstrations in 100 cities.
Operation Rescue said it would file a civil rights suit next week in U.S. District Court against the city of Atlanta on behalf of the Rev. Doyle Clark of Hudson, Ind., who said he suffered serious injuries and inadequate medical attention when he was arrested Tuesday.
″We would have liked to have more people come out but we feel that we touched the hearts of Christians,″ said Operation Rescue spokesman Bob Nolte. ″It was a pioneer effort and from that aspect, we’re pleased.″
The movement ran low on people willing to go to jail, but more arrived in Atlanta late in the week for Saturday’s protest.
Demonstration leaders claimed success through the week, saying at least some of the women with appointments at the four clinics they picketed were persuaded to change their minds.
But a spokeswoman for the National Abortion Rights League characterized the demonstrators as ″religious extremists who want to impose their religious moral views on this entire country.″
″I think what they achieved is ... further alienating the American public. The public abhors extremist tactics of intimidation,″ said Kate Michelman, executive director of the league, who was in Atlanta at the start of the week. She made her remarks in Seattle.
About 70 volunteers were on duty Saturday to take women through the picket lines into the clinic.
Police reminded demonstrators that they were violating an injunction when they tried to persuade one woman not to enter the clinic for an abortion.
The injunction prohibits, among other things, the bothering or harassing of people entering or leaving the clinics.
Estimates varied about how many women were dissuaded from having abortions during the week.
Ignatius deBlasi, administrator of the Midtown Clinic where there were 53 arrests Friday and 40 on Saturday, said about 80 percent of those with clinic appointments Friday kept them.
Operation Rescue claims many of the women entering the clinic were ″plants″ sent in to give the impression of normal operation.
Demonstrators picketed the Atlanta Pretrial Detention Center later Saturday to protest what they said was an intentional delay in releasing protesters who posted bond. About 390 of those arrested during the week remained in custody Saturday afternoon.
But city officials, who warned earlier that those arrested would be treated like other prisoners, said it would take days to process the demonstrators out because their paperwork is not being processed separately from other prisoners.
″(Operation Rescue founder) Randall Terry said they were coming to paralyze the city government,″ said J.D. Hudson, Atlanta’s corrections director. ″They’ve lived up to their purpose to overwhelm the criminal justice system.
″They tore up the tracks, now they’re complaining because the train won’t roll.″