Arrest Figures Climb in Wichita, Kan., Anti-Abortion Protests
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) _ The leaders of an abortion protest that has resulted in about 470 arrests over two days were themselves arrested today by federal marshals.
Randall Terry of Binghamton, N.Y., founder of the national anti-abortion group Operation Rescue, and two others were handcuffed and taken away for an appearance before U.S. District Judge Patrick Kelly.
The judge had issued a temporary injunction Tuesday that barred the protesters from blocking the entrance to a clinic operated by Dr. George Tiller. His Women’s Health Care Services clinic has been targeted because he performs late-term abortions.
Two other clinics in Wichita also have drawn abortion protesters and were covered by Kelly’s injunction.
Also arrested today were Jim Evans, a minister from Binghamton, and Pat Mahoney, a radio talk show host in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
The judge said he ordered the arrests after lawyers for Tiller reported early today that his court order was being ignored.
Abortion protesters had maintained an all-night vigil outside two of the clinids and arrests had continued through the night.
The number of pickets at Tiller’s clinic dropped by early morning to fewer than 200, some of them people who had been arrested and released Tuesday. Protesters had left the other two clinics.
Five staff members left the building this morning after spending the night.
″This isn’t about the abortion issue anymore,″ said Jenny Gebert, 25, a clinic clerical worker. ″It’s about people being allowed to go to work and earn a living.″
Officials of Operation Rescue said today that they were not sure how long they would continue to have enough people to block the clinic gates because some people had to return to work.
The national anti-abortion group also staged protests at the three clinics last week. The clinics closed to avoid confrontations with the demonstrators, many of whom came from out of state.
The clinics reopened Monday as police promised to get staff members and patients inside. Tiller and his staff were taken to the clinic inside police vehicles. Police on horseback helped clear the crowd to open access to the clinic.
On Tuesday, demonstrators allowed seven staff members at Tiller’s clinic to enter about midday but blocked the entrance to patients.
Patients were seen Tuesday at Wichita Family Planning Inc., officials said. However, no patients were admitted at the other two clinics, they said.
Terry had been served Tuesday with the federal judge’s temporary court order that the clinics not be blocked. Terry threw it to the ground without reading it.
The court order carries a penalty of $25,000 a day for a first violation and $50,000 a day for each subsequent violation for anyone found in contempt of the order.
″Man, I’ve got $500,000 in outstanding fines already,″ said Terry. ″You can’t get blood from a turnip.″
The judge ordered protest leaders to inform their followers of the court order, but Terry refused.
Kelly scheduled a hearing Friday on whether the order should be made permanent.
The court order prohibits abortion protesters from blocking entrances to a clinic and harassing people who go in and out. It also limits the number of people who can attempt to offer sidewalk counseling to someone entering the clinic to two per individual.