The far right won’t close this clinic

September 11, 2018

Michelle Farber reports from Seattle on a clinic defense that mobilized 100 people to counter the far-right bigots attempting to scare pro-choice activists into silence.

SOME 100 pro-choice activists, led by the grassroots organization Seattle Clinic Defense, joined together September 8 to protect an area Planned Parenthood clinic from anti-choice demonstrators, including members of the far right: the often violent group known as the Proud Boys.

In August, Seattle Clinic Defense, which defends clinics from routine anti-choice harassment, was met with a nasty surprise when members of the far-right groups Patriot Prayer and Proud Boys showed up to intimidate the pro-choice presence, along with the anti-choice “regulars” who routinely harass women attempting to access the clinic. The right-wingers promised they would return the following month.

In the interim, Seattle Clinic Defense focused on building a large, bold defense to counter these groups and keep patients, staff and pro-choice defenders safe.

Defenders arrived as early as 6:30 a.m. to ensure they would be at the clinic prior to any anti-choice presence and to make sure that the sides of the driveway to the clinic would be lined with pro-choice signs and messages.

Pro-choice activists organize to defend Seattle's clinics from the bigots
Pro-choice activists organize to defend Seattle's clinics from the bigots (Seattle Clinic Defense)

By the time the defense officially started at 8 a.m., 80 pro-choice defenders had come out to support the clinic, with more arriving during the course of the morning.

Organizations involved in planning and mobilizing for the clinic defense spanned much of the organized left in Seattle, including the Seattle and Portland branches of the International Socialist Organization, Jane’s Sidewalk Support, Tacoma Clinic Defense, Radical Women, the Freedom Socialist Party, Socialist Alternative, the General Defense Committee/Industrial Workers of the World and the John Brown Gun Club, which helped to organize and support security for the defense.

In the lead-up to the event, Seattle City Council member and Socialist Alternative activist Kshama Sawant encouraged people to mobilize. In an e-mail to supporters, she encouraged “everyone who wants to fight against the far right, to defend and expand reproductive rights and for a society free of oppression” to come to the event.

DURING THE action, defenders wrote letters of support to the clinic staff and held signs and banners with messages like “Free Abortion on Demand and Without Apology” and “Honk if You’re Pro-Choice.”

For the majority of the defense, the usual anti-choice crowd was nowhere to be found, but eventually, seven Proud Boys showed up to lurk around the edges of the crowd.

Only one ventured into the crowd, repeatedly walking back and forth down the line of pro-choice defenders. When he stopped in the middle of the defenders, they chanted and played loud anti-fascist music.

While the Proud Boy attempted to provoke a confrontation, clinic defenders largely refused to engage him, as members of the clinic defense’s security team surrounded and followed him through the crowd and back to the edges of the protest.

When another Proud Boy started milling through the crowd, he was chased away with chants of “Pro-life men have got to go, when you get pregnant let us know!” and left the defense after approximately 20 minutes. With the exception of the Proud Boys, there was no visible anti-choice presence at the clinic throughout the morning.

“It was great energy through most of the day — a lot of song and laughter,” Seattle Clinic Defense organizer Ariel Hard said of her experience. “So many groups and so many unorganized people just wanting to show up and stand for defense!”

Peter Ruhm, a member of the Seattle International Socialist Organization and organizer with Seattle Clinic Defense, said:

The clinic defenders seemed to have a new energy and urgency that hasn’t been there since the beginning of 2018. People were talking about [Supreme Court nominee Brett] Kavanaugh, the midterm elections and the rise of fascism. Some debates played out among the defenders on how to fight Trump and on the validity of electoralism...

This event struck me as a clear step towards building the united front we need: socialists, anarchists and liberals all showed up to fight in this common cause.

Seattle Clinic Defense is now beginning to prepare for the anti-choice movement’s fall “40 Days for Life” campaign, scheduled for later in September, as well as a panel on “Why Clinic Defense Matters: Building an Abortion Rights Movement,” which will feature speakers from clinic defense groups from several Washington cities, including Everett, Tacoma and Seattle.

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