By Erin Sherbert
By Erin Sherbert
By Leif Haven
By Erin Sherbert
By Chris Roberts
By Kate Conger
By Brian Rinker
By Rachel Swan
A man from a Spanish-language TV station appears. Will you shout in Spanish? he asks the group. They nod. "Si aborto! Si aborto!" they yell, and look fierce, and the cameraman smiles and gets a wrap.
Inside, I'm back in red-chaired hell waiting for word - once again -about the coming demonstration.
"Our task," Mahoney is saying onstage, "is to go out into all the world and convert the Philistines. You don't shoot Philistines amymore, you convert them." Mahoney smiles. "There's a whole lot of people who'd like to do it the old-fashioned way."
"Amen," shouts a man in the audience. Laughter.
"It is sad," Mahoney says, "when your counterparts out on the street are so torn up, they're so ripped up inside, that they're driven to self mutalation, putting pins and steel in every part of their body imaginable, screaming out in hatred, dressing like the walking cadavers that they spiritually are. They need Jesus Christ!" Mahoney says.
Foreman and Whitel tell those gathered that they resemble the underground railroad. They ask the faithful to give money and give generously, and seven large shiny plates move through the aisles. White asks them to give their bodies. "We have to stand firm. This is our time! This is our day!" But White doesn't want anyone with deep pockets to join the blockade because if they were ever sued and lost, their cash would go to the enemy. "I need to ask those who have assets that can be attached and sold and that would give money to the baby-killers, that they stay back on this one."
Mahoney returns, takes White's place onstage, and asks those willing to be arrested under FACE to come forward and kneel. A chastened stream of men and women walk quietly to the altar: 21, 22, then 23 praying people. I try to memorize their faces.
"God bless you," Mahoney says to them. He asks for money for those who will go to jail and "spend months without their families."
And no one announces where the blockade will be.
Day 3. Seven a.m. Back in Norwalk. It seems the only way to fing the blockade is to follow Operation Rescue cars departing the church staging area. I whip my car into line behind three lead cars filled with OR people I recognize and hope no one boots me out, which they don't. The line grows to 17, then starts moving.
Smooth sailing. The white Ford Explorer in front of me speeds up to 80 mph but I have no problem weaving in and out of highway traffic that spits us into downtown L.A. To the wrong demo.
At Sixth and Westmoreland stand dozens of cops and hundreds of women on the curb, the Feminist Majority in teal, screaming "Keep your rosaries off my ovaries." Elsewhere, the Flintstones chant is in full bloom and various abortion foes are praying. But it's clear that I - along with a dozen other reporters who followed the caravan - have been duped. None of the 23 faces kneeling at the alter last night are here. Neither is BACORR.
"We've got hundereds of protesters spread out around Los Angeles. We'll find out where they are," says Kohsin-Kintigh from the Feminist Majority, who soon has the word: "They're at the Clinica Familia on Sherman Way - go the North Hollywood," she says, and reporters go scurrying.
Where is BACORR?
After hauling down the highway, I arrive at the North Hollywood clinic, which resembles an armed camp. The entire block surrounding the Clinica Familia - a small office next to El Pollo Loco and Wong's Wok and a nail salon in a strip mallll - has been cordoned off. A dozen mounted LAPD patrol officers - their horses wearing riot shields over their eyes - line one side of the clinic while the perimeter holds 20 police officers in riot gear, another 20 without, and a phalanx of 10 cops on motorcycles.
More than 300 abortion rights supporters and 70 anti-abortion protesters alternately yell and pray from behind the yellow crime scene tape that holds them far back from the action: a small clot of people wedged up against the clinic door.
Six OR cars left Norwalk from a different parking lot, I learn later: Each tool a different route, each lost its tail, and the convoy finally deposited the 23 blockaders here by 8:30 a.m. The clinic had opened and a few patients sat in the waiting room, but the Feminist Majority had clinic defenders in place, and when they saw OP appear, they locked arms in front of the door. Within seconds, OR slammed in next to them and sat down. The police - with whom the Feminist Majority had been in constant contact - instantly roped off the entire shopping center and poured into the parking lot to make sure the sit-in stayed peaceful.
It is now an hour later, the bodies remain wedged by the clinic door, and an LAPD lieutenant picks up his bullhorn and gives the official order to disperse. The clinic defenders obey and leave OR to its imminent arrest. The singing begins from the Operation Rescue supporters who carry mangled-fetus signs and rosaries.