Defending a clinic from Patriot Prayer

June 18, 2018

Lowell Bander reports on the mobilization of left-wing activists against a rally that the alt-right bigots tried to hold at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Kent, Washington.

A BROAD coalition of left-wing activists mobilized to confront Patriot Prayer on June 9 in Kent, Washington, when the alt-right group tried to hold its “Defund Planned Parenthood” rally.

As many as 150 people came together from as far away as Everett and Olympia, Washington, and Portland, Oregon, to dwarf the 25 right-wingers that showed up to the anti-choice rally — part of a campaign rally for Patriot Prayer founder Joey Gibson’s run for Senate — held outside a Planned Parenthood clinic 20 miles south of Seattle.

Some 80 cops in riot gear were deployed to the clinic and surrounding area to protect Patriot Prayer. A handful of members of the right-wing Proud Boys — a proudly chauvinist, racist and violent group — were also on hand.

The counterprotest was organized by Radical Women, which reached out to other groups, including Seattle Clinic Defense, which has been defending a Planned Parenthood clinic in Seattle from anti-choice activists.

Protesters rally to defend abortion rights in Washington State
Protesters rally to defend abortion rights in Washington State (Seattle Clinic Defense | Facebook)

Other groups that turned out to oppose Patriot Prayer included the International Socialist Organization (ISO), ANSWER, the Party for Socialism and Liberation, the Freedom Socialist Party, Dyke Community Activists, Seattle Gay News, Organized Workers for Labor Solidarity, and the Steve Hoffman for U.S. Senate Campaign.

The left greatly outnumbered the alt-right, just as they did at a counterprotest of Patriot Prayer at the University of Washington earlier in the year — and before that, in multiple instances in Portland last year and in San Francisco.

At the counterprotest in Kent, activists managed to drown out the right-wing bigots with chants such as “Not the church, not the state, women must decide their fate!” and “Pro-life? That’s a lie! You don’t care when women die!”

As Sharon Smith wrote in the International Socialist Review: “Those who specialize in doctoring photos of babies care little about saving women’s lives. But large numbers of women die when abortion is illegal, because they are forced to undergo unsafe procedures performed in unsanitary conditions...A University of Colorado study done in the late 1950s reported that 350,000 women experienced postoperative complications each year from illegal abortions in the United States.”

DESCRIBING THE importance of unapologetic clinic defenses for those who work at clinics and use clinic services, Michelle Farber, a midwife, clinic defender and member of the ISO in Seattle, told the Better Off Red podcast:

[O]n the days that we do have clinic defenders, it’s the most beautiful thing. People feel so confident, people light up when they talk about the folks that are outside and say, “I didn’t even know that there were people out there who did this.”...[I]nside the clinic, it just feels electric to feel that you’re actually supported...It’s one of the most powerful moments of solidarity that I’ve felt.

In return for Farber’s activism, just three days after the Better Off Red episode aired, and two days before the planned counterprotest of Patriot Prayer, an FBI agent from the “Puget Sound Joint Terrorism Task Force” came to her home and left a note and business card — in a move clearly designed to intimidate her and other activists. Farber invoked her right to refuse to talk to the agent.

At the protest of Patriot Prayer, police patrolled the surrounding neighborhood, and a handful was stationed on the roof of the grocery store across the street. Our side chanted, “Why are you in riot gear? We don’t see a riot here!”

The bulk of the counterprotesters were forced to confront Patriot Prayer from across the street, since police had set up a barricade around the sidewalk in front of the clinic to prevent anyone other than the right-wingers from occupying the space directly around the clinic.

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At one point, a group of about 15 counterprotesters briefly occupied the street corner beside the clinic, until a phalanx of cops plated in riot gear and armed with large clubs shoved and pepper-sprayed the peaceful protesters across the crosswalk and onto the other side of the street.

Later, when a few Patriot Prayer supporters attempted to bust into the crowd of left-wing activists and the counterprotesters resisted, the cops briefly arrested one of the clinic defenders — but did nothing to the belligerent right-wingers. For those who weren’t yet convinced of whose side the police are really on, this was an instructive field lesson.

Despite the role of the city’s heavy-handed policing in restricting our ability organize and mobilize, our side overwhelmed the alt-right in numbers and drowned them out with chants whenever one of the alt-right bigots picked up the mic.

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