“Pro-lifers” get help from their far-right friends

August 15, 2018

Michelle Farber reports on far-right forces supporting anti-abortion bigots who picket clinics in Washington state, and pro-choice activists' response.

MEMBERS OF Seattle Clinic Defense were met with an unexpected surprise when they gathered to defend an abortion clinic on August 11: Instead of the usual handful of anti-choice bigots, nearly a dozen members of Patriot Prayer and the Proud Boys had come to intimidate and harass people accessing the clinic and the pro-choice clinic defenders.

One anti-choice demonstrator said loudly that the alt-right forces were called in as reinforcements by one of the anti-choice protesters, who is often alone and severely outnumbered by clinic defenders.

Patriot Prayer founder Joey Gibson, who recently lost his primary race for Senate in Washington, was also present.

Patriot Prayer, according to its Facebook group “About Me,” states that it’s “fighting corruption and big government with the strength and power of love.” But Patriot Prayer has hosted a number of events from Seattle to Portland, Oregon, over the last few years that bring out violent white supremacists, neo-Nazis and Proud Boys, a group that acts as the literal fascist muscle to intimidate and harass counterprotesters.

Members of Seattle Clinic Defense stand up against the right at Planned Parenthood
Members of Seattle Clinic Defense stand up against the right at Planned Parenthood

Seattle Clinic Defense organizes monthly defenses of one of the Planned Parenthood clinics in the center of the city, ranging from 15 to 30 defenders on a regular basis. But many events have been much bigger since Trump’s election.

Some summertime defenses are smaller due to vacations, competing events and an overall low level of sustained struggle for reproductive rights outside of these monthly actions. Unfortunately, the August monthly defense was one of those smaller defenses.

As defenders started to trickle in at the beginning of the defense, there were eight people in attendance. As it became clear that the young men surrounding the usual three anti-choice defenders were members of an often violent and unpredictable far-right organization, defenders began calling friends and neighbors.

A handful of passersby stopped to find out what was going on and ended up staying to help bolster pro-choice forces. By the time the clinic defense was in full swing around 10:30 a.m., 25 pro-choice activists were there.

The members of Patriot Prayer and the Proud Boys stayed on one side of the driveway, and there was no confrontation between the two groups, except for when Gibson came over to issue a threat to pro-choice activists, as seen in this video.

“Next month when you come out here, I’m going to ask that you leave her [one of the anti-choice protesters] alone,” he told one defender, “Do not harass her, do not surround her, do not cover up her sign. Otherwise, we will bring out hundreds of people....we’re going to be forced to bring out hundreds of people and it’s going to be a circus.”

THIS ISN’T the first time that Patriot Prayer has targeted a Planned Parenthood clinic in Washington. Last January, the group rallied outside the Planned Parenthood in Olympia and was met by about 30 pro-choice demonstrators.

On June 9, some 25 anti-abortion protesters joined Joey Gibson at Planned Parenthood in Kent, about 20 miles south of Seattle. They were outnumbered six to one by pro-choice and anti-fascist counterprotesters.

While Seattle Clinic Defense has dealt with aggressive protesters in the past, this was the first time that defenders were unexpectedly met by fascist thugs there to protect the anti-choice demonstrators. The antis started to pack up as the number of clinic defenders increased, and by 11 a.m., they had left, along with Patriot Prayer and the Proud Boys.

In the coming month, Seattle Clinic Defense will be working on mobilizing a large, bold, grassroots action for our September 8 defense and for our fall campaign against 40 Days for Life.

As legislative threats and on-the-ground threats like what was witnessed on August 11 become more frequent, it’s more imperative than ever to rebuild an unapologetic movement for abortion rights for all.

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