205 Arrested in La Mesa Abortion Protest

TIMES STAFF WRITER

In one of the area's largest-ever anti-abortion actions, authorities said Saturday that police arrested 205 anti-abortion activists who attempted to block entrance to a La Mesa family planning clinic and failed to heed police orders to disperse.

The number detained was believed to be the largest to date in an ongoing series of such protests by the San Diego-area contingent of Operation Rescue, a national anti-abortion coalition. The group attempts to blockade clinics nationwide, a tactic that has led to thousands of arrests of activists throughout the United States.

The effort has drawn criticism from abortion-rights supporters who say that the protests amount to intimidation and ultimately deny women access to legal family planning alternatives.

In April, San Diego police arrested 117 Operation Rescue protesters who blocked the office of a city doctor who performs legal abortions.

Police reported no violence or confirmed injuries in Saturday's action, although some protesters were carried from the scene, said Lt. Alan Lanning of the La Mesa Police Department.

Adriana Hallford, a spokeswoman for the anti-abortion group, said that she witnessed "an incredible amount of violence" by the police, although she knew of no injuries. Lanning said reasonable force was used only when necessary.

Sylvia Sullivan, another spokeswoman, called the arrests "indiscriminate." Lanning characterized the police action as appropriate and restrained.

The well-organized demonstrators began gathering shortly after 6 a.m. at the office of Family Planning Associates Medical Group on Fletcher Parkway. Earlier in the week, the protesters had announced their plans to converge on an area clinic; but the activists, as is customary, kept their targeted site secret.

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