The stage was set Thursday in the San Fernando Valley for abortion protesters to confront police and pro-choice advocates, but half of the cast did not show up, authorities said.
Los Angeles police and organizers of advocates volunteering to defend clinics in the Valley reported no confrontations with members of Operation Rescue, an anti-abortion group that formed a human blockade around a clinic in Cypress on Thursday. The group said the clinic was the first target in a three-day “Holy Week of Rescue.”
Police and the pro-choice advocates, both of whom were out in force in the Valley on Thursday, vowed to remain ready for a possible confrontation today.
“We won’t let our guard down,” said Diana Buckhantz, an organizer of about 75 pro-choice advocates who gathered at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Sherman Oaks before dawn Thursday. “There is no telling where they will hit next. We will have people ready.”
Police said they will also be prepared.
“We have seen no noticeable attempts by Operation Rescue to disrupt” Valley clinics, said Cmdr. Frank Piersol. “But we will certainly have people here and available through Saturday.”
A task force of 170 officers was mobilized at a 5 a.m. roll call Thursday. Most were sent on roving patrols near the 17 clinics in the Valley that police said may be targeted by Operation Rescue activists.
The police presence was most evident near the Planned Parenthood clinic in the 14100 block of Magnolia Boulevard where the pro-choice advocates had gathered. Dozens of officers and patrol cars waited in a nearby park or cruised on Magnolia throughout the morning, but there were no calls for them from any clinics. No arrests were made.
Buckhantz said the clinic was a mobilization point from which advocates could be dispatched to any clinic believed to be an Operation Rescue target or where officials wanted support.
A few people--"Keep Abortion Legal” placards in hand--were sent to a clinic in Van Nuys, and a call for volunteers resulted in another 25 people going in rush-hour traffic to a clinic near downtown. The volunteers didn’t mind.
‘No Big Deal’
“I expected we would have to move to where we were needed,” said Anne McCredie, who had already driven to the Sherman Oaks clinic from Ojai. “The day that abortion becomes illegal it will be like living in a police state. So whatever we have to do . . . is no big deal.”
About 40 pro-choice volunteers who remained at the Sherman Oaks clinic held placards and walked a picket line. They were instructed by clinic leaders to form human chains in the clinic’s doorway should the opposition arrive.
“We don’t want violence, no confrontation,” said Vanessa Poster, a volunteer organizer. “Safety is our primary concern. Safety for ourselves and safety for our patients.”
Throughout the day, the clinic accepted patients on an appointment-only basis, officials said.
The only sparring was verbal, occurring occasionally between the volunteers outside and motorists who drove by and yelled anti-abortion statements. One of those motorists was Wally George, a conservative television and radio talk-show host whose wife, Janis, is five months pregnant.
‘I Saw Red’
“When I drove by that slaughterhouse . . . I saw red,” said George, who lives nearby. He said he stopped his car, got out, yelled at the pickets and returned to his car.
Police said the task force was drawn from personnel in all five Valley police divisions and from all shifts. Officials could not estimate the cost of the operation. But they said they had no alternative but to be ready for an Operation Rescue confrontation.
“In a situation such as this, you can’t start calling in people from home,” Detective Jay St. John said. “They have to be already available to respond.”