About 300 anti-abortion protesters blockaded a Long Beach women’s clinic this morning, drawing another counter-protest by pro-choice groups and inviting arrest for the second day in a row--but police finally decided not to accommodate them.
After a five-hour standoff, police announced that there would be no arrests because the protesters were cooperating, were moving back from the building and apparently planned to leave.
Earlier, Operation Rescue leaders said they had contingency plans to blockade another clinic at an undisclosed location if they were not arrested in Long Beach.
Until the sudden reversal, arrests appeared imminent. By late morning, after officers declared that those sitting in front of entrances to a medical building at 28th Street and Pacific Avenue were violating the law, only about 150 of the protesters remained seated.
Police in Two Rows
Members of Operation Rescue, determined to close Southern California abortion clinics with three days of sit-ins, appeared at their target of the day, the Women’s Care Medical Group Inc., shortly after 6:30 a.m.
They immediately drew a contingent of counterdemonstrators from the nearby headquarters of the Family Planning Assn. of Long Beach, one of the mobilization points for pro-choice forces waiting to see where the anti-abortionists planned to strike.
The shouting began as the anti-abortionists sat five deep on three sides of the building and pro-choice activists ringed them with “Keep Abortions Legal” placards.
In the middle of Pacific Avenue, which was closed to traffic, about 60 helmeted Long Beach police officers stood in two rows waiting for orders to start making arrests.
Shortly before 10 a.m.--although the clinic had yet to open--Long Beach police tried to escort a patient and a receptionist through the blockade. They were blocked from entering by the anti-abortionists.
Papers Served on Terry
That, police said, meant that the law had been broken. They prepared to begin making arrests, allowing all those who did not wish to be arrested to move outside a yellow tape. Apparently all the pro-choice people and half of the anti-abortion demonstrators moved away from the building.
Randall Terry, the 29-year-old Binghamton, N.Y., founder of Operation Rescue, was with his demonstrators and was served papers in connection with a federal lawsuit filed three years ago by the National Organization for Women.
Terry, whose name was added to the suit recently, and three other people are charged with racketeering, extortion and stealing fetal parts in connection with protests in Georgia.
On Thursday, 350 Operation Rescue people and one pro-choice demonstrator were arrested in Cypress for failing to leave the scene of an unlawful assembly. They were cited and released on their own recognizance after being ordered to face arraignment in West Orange County Municipal Court in late April.