Wednesday, July 19, 2006


The group, The World Can't Wait, describes Operation Save America thusly,
Operation Save America, who's message is "Homosexuality is a sin. Islam is a lie. Abortion is murder.", is attempting to shut down the last abortion clinic in Mississippi this week. They are not just a lunatic fringe group, but the storm troopers of a theocratic ideology and program that has, under the Bush regime, increasingly been established in the halls of Congress, in the judiciary, and in the White House itself. The WCW bus tour is in Jackson this week to keep the last clinic open, and to repudiate the attacks on women's right to choose and the whole Bush agenda this is part of.

And that is a perfect description.

Operation Save America train and rally their thugs to harass and terrorize women going into abortion facilities and try to close clinics by blockading the doors. They block access to clinics, picket doctors' homes, and hold protests outside of gay bars and progressive churches. "Operation Save America" is not just anti-choice. They have a whole repressive agenda which they seek to force on society, and they see the anti-abortion movement as the 'gateway' to achieve their overall goals. Anti-abortion leader the Reverend Keith Tucci has said, "The most effective money and energy spent is in pro-life activism. It brings more people into the kingdom than any mission and it's the best way to disciple the culture."

When the group showed up in Charlotte, North Carolina to attack gay rights, local police warned abortion clinics, gays, churches and others to watch out for bombs.

Today Operation Save America tore apart a copy of the Koran as part of their biblical mission.

The first article below was taken from InfoShop News and is a report from Anti-Racist Action. The second report is from World Can't Wait. The next two are from the Jackson Clarion Ledger.

First Report : ARA campaign against the pro-life assault in Jackson, Mississippi
Sunday, July 16 2006 @ 01:40 PM PDT

hello everyone!

Anti-Racist Action is in Jackson, Mississippi for the next three weeks, fighting to keep the last abortion clinic in the state from being shut down by militant pro-lifers.

This issue couldn't be more relevant or important. If these pro-life wingnuts are allowed to win, abortion will be essentially illegal in Mississippi. Also, a pro-life victory here will embolden these groups and harden their resolve, leading to many, many more right-wing assaults on clinics across the country. A failure to stop them here could well snowball out of control.

We are currently fighting Operation Save America, a confrontational anti-choice group made up of families and hotheaded, super masculine men. The Minutemen are rumored to be in town, with reinforcements on the way. At the end of the month, a notoriously militant group known as Oh, Saratoga will be arriving for a week of actions. These are our identified enemies at this point, not counting lone wolf wingnuts and various white supremacist and fascist groups who may make an appearance at any time.

After driving for two days and 17 hours, we arrived on the morning of Friday, the 14th. We immediately dove into preparation, securing places for everyone to stay and working out logistical, intelligence, and security matters. Our plate was especially full when one considers that four of the five initial advance vehicles broke down on the way, two of them breaking down twice. Bad luck? Who knows...

After working out the infrastructure we needed to operate here, we rolled on Saturday the 15th with about 20 people to help protect a NOW (National Organization of Women) rally from the pro-lifers. Although the area was crawling with uniformed and plainclothes police and two school buses of riot cops were sitting right at the edge of the event, the OSA fascists came right in and were met with an effective ARA blockade. We were able to hold their initial scout team, who were carrying signs displaying aborted fetuses and bible scripture, for about 30 minutes. At that point, OSA members came into two other sides of the park carrying massive, six foot high pictures of dead fetuses. Although we were stretched very thin at this point, we were still able to go person-to-person and hinder their movement towards the stage. Things escalated when the fascists began shoving and hitting ARA members with their signs. Seeing this, the police broke out their beating sticks and riot shields and began to try to intervene.

After a few more minutes of this, and repeated warnings and threats from the police, NOW members began adopting our harassment tactics, pushing OSA members back, blocking them with their pro-choice signs, and even linking arms and surrounding individual members! It was an exciting time; OSA was being blocked on all sides, the pro-choice rally was protected, and we were winning. At this point, the police declared that there was a "bomb threat" and began pushing EVERYONE out of the park, whacking some of us with their shields as they herded us onto the sidewalk. With half of the crowd on one side of the street and the other half on the other, chaos began to creep into the equation. The police began to lose their cool, and there were several heated shouting matches. Shortly thereafter, the permit ended and everyone was ejected from the area. Apparently the ATF bomb robot was brought out and blew up a "suspicious package" but many of us are somewhat skeptical. Whether it was a legitimate bomb threat or the police fabricated one, it sure seemed like they were on OSA's side.

I am about to run out of time on this public computer, but I will be writing a report on today's actions sometime tonight or tomorrow. We are acting effectively, but we desperately need more people. Contact us and get down here! There's the widest range of tactics imaginable being employed here at this point and it's only day three of the three week campaign.

Come down South and help us put these fundamentalist bigots in their place. Let's give 'em the boot and keep abortion safe and legal in Mississippi!

For Unrestricted Reproductive Freedom for All.
No Pasaran! Pasaremos
Asheville Anti-Racist Action.


Jackson, Day 2: Unrelenting Drive For Theocracy - And the Need to Bring This to a Halt

The following report is compiled from first-hand accounts by World Can't Wait organizers in Jackson, as well as from the Jackson Clarion-Ledger ("5 abortion opponents arrested", 7/17/06).

July 16: Today said much about the relentlessness with which Operation Save America and their allies in the White House, Congress, and judiciary are seeking to impose a theocracy on the whole country.

The morning began with the Unitarian Universalist Church hosting a pro-choice forum that brought together activists and progressive people from Jackson and others who had come from around the country to defend Mississippi's last abortion clinic. Operation Save America's attempt to shut down the state's last clinic has also compelled many people to act to defend what they see as a basic women's right, without which women cannot be free or equal members of society. And to one degree or another, everyone recognizes that this is not just about a small group of religious fanatics and one clinic, but that the very future of society is at stake right now.

The Bush agenda, for which OSA serves as storm-troops on the ground, is about not only overturning Roe v. Wade (as horrible as that would be), but banning birth control, imposing a narrow and hateful brand of Christian fundamentalism as the law of the land, and using all this as part of its rationale for global empire. So the fact that in the face of this, pockets of resistance are developing that include everyone from church ministers, outspoken Black women in Jackson, university professors, long-time pro-choice activists, and youth awakening to the ugly reality of where this society is headed is a good thing - and says much about the potential for Thursday, October 5 to be a day when all across the country, people gather in the streets to bring the Bush agenda to a halt.

Nonetheless, a Unitarian Universalist Church opening its doors to pro-choice people was more than OSA could tolerate (they do, after all, wear t-shirts that read "Homosexuality is a sin. Islam is a lie. Abortion is murder."). OSA members showed up at the church in the morning with their fake pictures of "fetuses", shouting over bullhorns, and even attempting to get inside the church to disrupt not only the pro-choice forum, but the church service as well. They even sent in two "undercover" OSA members who made it into the church and went on to preach their narrow Christian fundamentalist worldview, which, when challenged, could not stand any test of reality.

All this was a big wake up call to anyone who thought that theocracy wouldn't encroach on progressive pockets - OSA doesn't intend to leave a stone unturned. Sunday church services had to be defended by pro-choice activists putting their bodies between the Unitarian Universalist and the OSA - with one person even being hit by an OSA member's car. (It should be noted that this is in stark contrast to the Democrats utter lack of opposition to the assaults on the right to choose, letting people like Alito and Roberts get on the Supreme Court with the sorriest of excuses.)

Stepping back from this particular experience, we can see how it's not only with OSA in Jackson that theocrats are ramming their agenda down everyone's throats - the highest court in the liberal state of New York just refused to allow gay couples to get married, a Constitutional amendment banning gay marriage received 49 votes in the Senate and the full support of the White House, abortion is being banned in one state after another, and the Supreme Court is being stacked with Justices set on overturning Roe v. Wade. These people are relentless, and will not confine their agenda to the "red states", but firmly believe that America (including the "blue states") must be radically reshaped in conformity with their worldview.

Not only did OSA attempt to disrupt the church services, but they went on to threaten the minister, calling her a "fake minister" and saying their protest was aimed at her. To OSA, the most repulsive thing is the notion that a church leader would believe in tolerance and equality, and theocrats like them are on a mission to purge anything progressive from churches. Later, five OSA members were arrested outside the St. James Episcopal Church because nearby business owners complained about their disruption, leading Flip Benham, their lead, to complain of being victimized by the police.

All this points to what's ahead in the next week in Jackson, and in the coming months throughout society - nothing short of an all-out political struggle whose outcome will determine whether the right to abortion exists, whether or not we live under a theocracy, whether or not torture, new wars and war crimes become legitimized, and more. The outcome of this has everything to do with whether people who want to bring the Bush agenda to a halt step out of the confines of compromise and common ground being by the Democrats - in Jackson this week, and even more importantly on October 5th across the county. The potential is there in the widespread feeling of disgust for this regime, but needs to be galvanized all summer through uncompromising resistance - which is exactly why we set out on this bus tour, and exactly what brought us to Jackson this week.


Anti-abortion group takes protest to '23 gates' in metro area
By Leah Rupp

The national anti-abortion group that arrived Saturday in Jackson with the purpose of trying to close Mississippi’s remaining abortion clinic is expanding its mission today.

It is fanning out in small groups to 23 locations in the metro area, which the Rev. Philip "Flip" Benham, director of Operation Save America, said represent "the gates of hell."

Among the targeted locations are Millsaps College, down the street from the abortion clinic, and Pearl High School, where a student gunman in 1997 killed two students and wounded seven others after stabbing his mother to death.

They are reading the Bible from cover to cover at each location, which Benham said will take about 3› hours.

The group Tuesday night at Making Jesus Real church in Pearl burned the Quran, the Moslem holy book. Asked what it had to do with the abortion issue, Benham said this morning: "We deal with all the issues we possibly can because there are different manifestations covering the same cyst, the cyst of the devil."

This morning, for the first time since the anti-abortion activists began amassing in Jackson, the clinic they have targeted to shutter was open for business.

Jackson Women's Health Organization, 2903 N. State St., opened its doors at 6:30 a.m.

McCoy Faulkner, security consultant for the clinic, said there were three or four protestors outside the clinic at the time. By shortly after 8:30 a.m., their numbers had grown to about 30, and they were spread out to Millsaps College, several blocks away.

Faulkner said the protestors have verbally abused the patients and staff as they entered and exited the clinic.

Across the street are 10 abortion rights activists from a group identified as World Can't Wait — Drive Out the Bush Regime.

So far, there have been no confrontations between the groups.

The city permit to protest issued to Operation Save America, formerly Operation Rescue, limits members to protest from 5 a.m. to 5 p.m. with no more than six people and only on the sidewalk on the side of the abortion clinic. But the group has exceeded those limits every day.

The national anti-abortion group is in the fifth day of its planned eight-day campaign aimed at closing the last abortion clinic in Mississippi.

Jackson police have arrested 14 anti-abortion protestors.

On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge William Barbour Jr. denied anti-abortion protesters’ request for a temporary restraining order against the Jackson Police Department for alleged First Amendment violations.

But this morning, the abortion protestors appeared to have taken a friendlier attitude with the police, coming up to them and having conversations unrelated to the abortion issue.

Since the protests began Saturday, thre also have been skirmishes with counter-protesters and police, a bomb threat, tires slashed and a false call about a fetus being disposed of in a downtown office building.

After an impassioned rally at the state Capitol Tuesday, the Rev. Philip "Flip" Benham, director of Operation Save America, expressed frustration with restrictions placed on the group by Jackson police.

"It’s been a real battle with the police," Benham said.

During the federal court hearing, attorneys for Operation Save America alleged the police department was not equally forceful with abortion rights advocates and ignored complaints of violence against one of its members.

Barbour ruled there was enough doubt about the facts of the case for him to not grant the restraining order.

"The real issue before the court is whether the plaintiffs proved the substantial likelihood of prevailing on the merits of the case," Barbour said.

But Barbour expressed concern about the Police Department’s handling of an incident Sunday in which abortion rights advocates allegedly jumped on a vehicle being driven by a member of Operation Save America and smashed the windshield.

"This is not to say that the court is not disturbed that the police did nothing while a group attacked the vehicle of a member of the pro-life group," Barbour said.

Pieter Teeuwissen, special assistant to the city attorney, noted that none of the 14 protesters was arrested in permitted areas. He said the city has granted the protesters every permit requested.

"We want them to express their First Amendment rights, but in a reasonable time, place and manner," Teeuwissen told Barbour.

Stephen Crampton, a Tupelo-based attorney for the anti-abortion group, said he plans to appeal to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Earlier Tuesday, six anti-abortion activists entered not guilty pleas in Jackson Municipal Court. They face charges of obstructing traffic, protesting in a residential neighborhood without a permit and disorderly conduct.

Both Benham's group and the abortion rights advocates who have launched counter-protests have been upset with their treatment by police.

Deborah Watkins of Madison, an abortion rights advocate, said she was threatened with arrest for holding signs at a Capitol rally on Monday. “We have a First Amendment right to carry a sign,” Watkins said. “We weren't disruptive at all.”

Unrest at rallies
Bomb scare doesn't deter abortion protesters
By Leah Rupp & Jean Gordon

A bomb scare interrupted an abortion rights rally at Smith Park in Jackson on Saturday, but leaders on both sides of the abortion debate said demonstrations and counter-demonstrations planned for this week would not be deterred.

No arrests were made Saturday, though there were verbal confrontations at a rally sponsored largely by the National Organization for Women.

"All of the activists cooperated very well today," police Cmdr. Tyrone Lewis said.

Earlier in the morning, activists with Operation Save America faced an empty parking lot because the clinic had already conducted its business for the day.

The abortion rights rally at Smith Park drew more than 200 people from across the nation, leading to confrontations with anti-abortion demonstrators before the bomb scare.

The park was evacuated after authorities were told a bomb might have been placed in a trash can. The suspected bomb turned out to be a suitcase containing several pill bottles, according to a preliminary police investigation.

About 15 officers already were on hand initially, but by the end of the day, the bomb squad and federal agents had been called in.

Individuals who may have placed the suitcase in the bin were being questioned.

"The trash can is safe and intact," Lewis laughed.

The mood wasn't as light earlier in the day.

Activists from as far as Boston came to the Jackson park to counter protests planned by Operation Save America.

But an hour into the afternoon rally, members of Operation Save America and individual anti-abortion protesters began to filter in, many carried Bibles and 5-foot-tall signs featuring pictures of fetuses.

Abortion rights demonstrators linked arms to try to keep anti-abortion supporters out and blocked their signs with their bodies.

"We just came here to see what they had to say - you're the one making all the trouble," said Canton resident E.C. Smith, pointing at Jerry Bellow, who is part of an abortion rights organization in North Carolina called Anti-Racist Action.

Smith held a sign reading "Thou Shalt Not Kill," called himself a "messenger of God" and carried a worn, maroon Bible.

"You don't get to play with the nice liberals today," Bellow shouted back at him, an inch from his face.

A group of abortion rights demonstrators from Boston wore black handkerchiefs over their faces, showing only their eyes and refused to give their last names to reporters. They also tried to block anti-abortion activists from entering the park.

Anyone is allowed to gather in a public park as long as the gathering is peaceable, police Lt. Jesse Robinson said.

A pregnant Elizabeth Johnston, an Ohio resident, attempted to get through the crowds several times while carrying one of the signs with a photograph of a fetus.

Abortion rights demonstrators were aggressive in their attempts to block her sign and keep her out of the park. "Are you concerned, sir?" Johnston said to one of the nearby officers.

Johnston said she and her husband bring their five children - ranging in age from 1-year-old to 7 - to many similar rallies. "Children see things clearly," she said. "When they look at this picture, my children know this is wrong."

Abortion rights activists who gathered for the rally said they were merely responding to the anti-abortion crowd.

"This is about women having control over their bodies," said Sunsara Taylor, who is from New York and part of the World Can't Wait: Drive Out the Bush Regime Now organization. "They were trying to shut us down and we were just responding to that."

While the verbal confrontations grew louder on the outskirts of the rally, Kim Gandy, president of the National Organization for Women and keynote speaker, addressed the bulk of the crowd.

"A lot of women don't have options outside of this clinic," said Gandy, adding that the organization doesn't only deal with abortion issues, but also birth control, adoption and comprehensive sex education.

Near the end of Gandy's message, officers announced the park needed to be vacated immediately because of the bomb scare.

"Our rally was done - I was about to make closing statements," said Michelle Colon, president of the Jackson area chapter of National Organization for Women.

Colon said she's never heard about a bomb scare at a Mississippi rally, but that they are common at clinics across the county. "This is nothing compared to what doctors and patients at these places face every single day," Colon said.

The shock for the Rev. Flip Benham, leader of Operation Save America, was that officers were interested at all.

"What is going on in Jackson?" he said. "I thought we were in a state of emergency? Don't they have anything else better to do?"

Benham said at the church he operates out of in North Carolina, bomb-sniffing dogs routinely check the building.

The crowd at the rally was much larger than the one at the clinic earlier Saturday. Some 60 people stood behind police barricades set up on the sidewalk.

To prepare for any public disturbance, Jackson police sent four officers mounted on horses and two school buses carrying police in riot gear. The officers stood in the street as the abortion protesters prayed, read Scripture and shouted at clinic security staff.

Clinic operator Susan Hill, president of the National Women's Health Organization, asked that abortion rights activists not demonstrate outside the clinic this week to minimize crowds.

Jackson police said Saturday's bomb scare and the verbal altercations at the rally and clinic will not change the way officers are planning to handle activities by both groups throughout the week.

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