From our colleague Diane Dodge, State President of Ohio NOW:
Felonious Assault at an Akron Abortion Clinic
Monday, July 20, 2009
The antis have been getting louder and braver since the election of President Obama. Then on May 31st, we had the tragic shooting of Dr. Tiller at the door of his church. The Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act (FACE) is supposed to protect clinics, clinic workers, clients and their families. Sadly, those of us who work at the clinics, who have done clinic escort, who have gone to the clinic as a patient or accompanying a family member or friend have experienced first hand how intimidating and terrifying the anti’s can be, and how the laws that should protect us and our right to an abortion often fail.
The clinic in Akron, Ohio has been the site of a protest every Saturday morning for years. There are the regulars with their signs and bibles, some who stand quietly and pray others who are much more verbal and intimidating. There are the in your face group, who try to stop people from entering the clinic, threaten, intimidate and occasionally try to push or grab. And now we have the Jericho Riders, self proclaimed Motorcycle Ministers, warriors for Jesus Christ, who have declared war on abortion, gays, and sinners. Their website states ” Those of you who would call truth HATE, simply HATE the truth! The site proclaims they are unashamed, unafraid and unapologetic. And even offers a warning before you enter the site www.jerichoriders.com. There posted on the missions calendar every Saturday from 0800 until 1200 -1300 in front of the Murder Mill at 839 East Market, Akron, Ohio.
And it was there while defending the clinic and a woman’s right to choose that Charles Wright, a long time Akron Area NOW member and activist was beaten to the ground on Saturday morning. Wright who was unconscious, was taken to the hospital where he spent the night in the ICU. Fortunately, he was not hurt seriously and was released from the hospital on Monday with a few broken ribs and bruises. When I talked to him at the hospital Sunday, he told me he was hesitant about going to the clinic because the antis were getting more aggressive. He also stated that though he will continue to believe in a woman’s right to choose, he was not sure he was willing to put himself in danger outside of a clinic again.
These sentiments were also expressed by another NOW member who on July 8, 2009 was instrumental in helping get a guilty verdict of Criminal Trespass against an anti at the same clinic. She has been grabbed and threatened and does not feel safe going to the clinic again. Her question to me was “Where are the police? Why aren’t they protecting the clinic, its workers and clients?
The good news is that it seems the Akron Police are taking the attack against Wright seriously. The charges are to be Felonious Assault. NOW along with many other prochoice and gay rights groups will be watching to make sure they do their job. We will be meeting in the near future to discuss the violence and what we can do to help protect the clinic, workers and patients. We cannot allow the antis to succeed in closing down another clinic. We cannot walk away from our sisters in need. We cannot allow hatred to win. We must stand together against violence and speak out against discrimination and hatred.
Today the jury found Nate not guilty. It seems as if the first witness acted out what she thought Nate had done. She was asked if she lied to the police or if she was lying now. She was asked to leave the stand. Then Mr. Wright told his side and said that he had been knocked out and the responding officer said that was not the case. The truth did prevail today. It may have been better for them to have allowed the video to be suppressed but instead it helped to prove that they did not tell the truth.