Chicago Clinic Defense Confrontation
|CounterMedia cameraman being arrested. |
"Chicago Clinic Defense Confrontation" Chicago's Far West Side, August 27, 1996 Jay Sand firstname.lastname@example.org They received the call at about quarter after seven. Approximately twenty-five attendees of Active Resistance, an anarchist counter-convention occurring during the Chicago Democratic National Convention, had already convened at a health clinic at seven this morning on the 2800 block of Western Avenue to protect it from a rumored raid by Operation Rescue. A substantial amount of national O.R. leadership had converged on Chicago to rankle pro-choice Democrats by blockading clinic entrance to prevent women from receiving abortions (as well as all other health information and care that the clinics offer); defenders feared a substantial raid on one of the Western Avenue clinics and gathered early in the morning to confront the "anti's" on Western. At quarter after seven, however, an AR participant and clinic defense coordinator got word via cellular phone that Operation Rescue had sent a press release to the Chicago media declaring their target: the A.C.T. health center on 47th and Division. The defenders hurriedly piled into automobiles and sped to the scene of the clinic -- a working class African-American neighborhood far on the West Side. The surveillance worked: defenders arrived at A.C.T., a local clinic that provides several health services including gynecological counseling and abortion procedures, just minutes before O.R. The police showed almost immediately afterward and warned clinic defenders that they would not allow them to blockade the door or harass the other side. "We don't do that," said one female defender. "That's not us." The officer smirked, as if he had had a wealth of unhealthy experience with progressives -- "Oh yes it is," he said. Operation Rescue arrived minutes later. Members soon made their presence known by swarming the clinic to force their bodies onto the door. Defenders linked arms to repel them. O.R. members sat in front of the pro-choicers and shoved their way through the wall of bodies to place their own flesh in front of the clinic door. Chicago police arrived in droves and surrounded the demonstrators, demanding an immediate cessation of the physical confrontation. Meanwhile, three "anti's" planted themselves at the clinic's rear door and began to pray for the souls of the demonstrators. Police separated defenders from the pro-lifers and eventually forced the defenders to the sidewalk ; by 8:30 O.R. controlled all access to the clinic. While their fellows blockaded the entrance, other O.R. members prayed, quoted bible verses and accosted clinic workers who were trying to gain access to the clinic. Despite federal legislation that explicitly states that one may not block the entrance of a health clinic, police refused to arrest O.R. or ask the organization to leave. The situation remained the same for more than an hour as defenders pleaded with police to do their duty. "If you won't arrest them give us the badges and we will!" one defender cried. O.R. also approached women attempting to enter the clinic for health services; they did not know whether or not these women were going to the clinic for an abortion. After more than an hour and a half of such wrangling the manager of the clinic agreed to cancel today's appointments if the demonstrators would desist. O.R. accepted this condition as a victory. "There will be no babies killed here today!" one of the O.R. leaders cried triumphantly. O.R. members then retreated to a position across the parking lot from the clinic. Police forced pro-choicers onto the other side of the lot. At about 10 o'clock, soon after police arrested one pro-choicer for assaulting a pro-lifer by pulling the camera from around his neck during a physical confrontation, Countermedia videographer Eddy Nix moved to the "anti" side of the parking lot to conduct interviews. One of his intended subjects indicated to police that he was a trouble-maker. Unquestioning, the police asked Nix to leave. "I'm press," he said, producing his media pass for the officer. The policeman considered the pass and, at the urging of the antis, deemed that Nix's pass was not legitimate. He again told Nix that he had to leave. (Police did not check the credentials of other journalists who were dressed interviewing antis in the same vicinity.) When Nix, a long-time guerrilla videographer, refused to accept the illegitimacy of his media standing, police told him that he was under arrest, grabbed him by the arm and pulled his camera from his hands. Several policemen then descended upon Nix and carried him forcefully to the paddy wagon. When clinic defenders grabbed for Nix's camera to prevent the police from confiscating it, the officer who held it gruffly declared it prisoner's property. Police charged Nix with disorderly conduct and released him on his own recognizance forty-five minutes later. (Look at a video screen capture of Eddy Nix's arrest on the main page of the Countermedia home page at http://www.cpsr.cs.uchicago.edu/countermedia/ - Jay Sand, Countermedia print person, is the fellow scrawling notes vigorously in the background.) At around 11am, more than three hours after their siege had begun, members of Operation Rescue left the scene. They had succeeded in blockading and shutting down the A.C.T. clinic and had experienced no arrests. Alternately, a clinic defender and a member of Countermedia were in jail. A spokesman for the Chicago Police Department Office of News Affairs refused to comment about the police officers' passive response to the activities of Operation Rescue. After being questioned, the officer would only state "we're damned if we do and damned if we don't."
Related Material: Press Conference on Increased Police Harassment & Surveillance
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