- Police responded to escalating protests at a reproductive health clinic in Mt. Juliet last week.
- One of the anti-abortion protesters was later arrested with a gun outside a Nashville clinic.
- A federal judge has filed a restraining order against him and the evangelical group Operation Save America.
Protesters played the sounds of a baby crying so loudly that doctors at a clinic in Mt. Juliet couldn’t hear their patients Thursday morning. The protesters lied saying they were coming to the clinic for an appointment they didn’t need. They blocked the doors outside and inside, while a frightened woman hid in the corner.
When they were refused entry, one of them said on the video: “Now they are either going to let us in or we are tearing down this whole building. It’s up to them to decide.
She then told the camera, “We’re trying to see if they let us into the office, into the carafem. But if not, we’re just going to terrorize this whole building.
Then they told the police that they planned to climb.
Three of them, including one armed, were arrested outside another abortion clinic later in the day.
A Tennessee federal judge has issued a temporary restraining order against anti-abortion activist group Operation Save America amid attempts to block access to two reproductive health clinics in Nashville and Mt. Juliet last week.
Details of the escalating protests that began last Tuesday were excerpted from court documents filed in federal court by the nonprofit reproductive health clinic carafem in support of the order.
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Armed protest in Nashville
On July 28, Nashville police arrested Rickey Williams, who refused to leave the Nashville Planned Parenthood property with a group gathered at the entrance ‘saying they are murdering children inside,’ according to the affidavit. arrest of Williams.
The facility stopped providing abortions in June.
Williams told police the group had already been escorted off the property of the carafem clinic in Mt. Juliet. Williams was armed when he was arrested in Nashville, although his wife, who was also part of the group, told police the gun was his.
Police also arrested Bevelyn Williams and Edmee Chavannes. All three had been posted on bail and were not in Davidson County custody as of Tuesday.
U.S. District Judge Waverly Crenshaw issued the order Friday blocking Operation Save America from the Mt. the entrance … and to threaten the staff and patients of the establishment.”
A hearing is scheduled for August 5 to determine whether further legal action is necessary.
On July 26, about 150 protesters gathered outside the clinic building, holding signs with “graphic images” and using megaphones, as well as “accosting” vehicles entering the parking lot, Carafem alleges in court documents.
At the time, Mt. Juliet police played down the incident, saying the protest groups were not violent and the activity “remains legal.”
“No one blocked the building and no one attempted to illegally enter the building,” MJPD Captain Tyler Chandler told The Tennessean that day.
But in court records, carafem says they were forced into lockdown for half an hour that day as two Operation Save America leaders, Jason Storms and Chester Gallagher, refused to leave the door. entrance for several minutes until the police finally convinced the men to leave the property.
Protesters told a high-ranking Mount Juliet police officer that they intended to return all week and “escalate” activity on Friday, July 29, 2022, in accordance with the restraining order petition. .
“Mt. Juliet Deputy Chief of Police (Michael Mullins) reported to staff at carafem…(OSA) are planning to ‘fill the halls’ at the clinic ‘soon’ and that they ‘have men here who are ready to do what is necessary to be done,” the motion reads.
The threat was not specified in court documents.
A small protest of about 30 to 35 people was reported the following day, July 27, the same day a rally was held outside Nashville City Hall, where Storms was one of the speakers.
On July 28, about 60 people, including Rickey Williams, Bevelyn Williams and Chavannes, again gathered outside the carafem, according to the order.
Protesters played the sounds of a crying baby through large facility speakers, disrupting health care.
The three then entered the building and headed to the second floor where the clinic has offices, the filing says.
There they filmed their attempts to enter the clinic, misrepresenting their need for medical care and blocking entry into the process, according to the filing.
Bevelyn Williams recorded herself “threatening” the clinic on video, according to Carafem.
The clinic was again closed, not letting patients or staff in or out, they said. After the three men were moved by police, carafem said one patient said he hid on the corner for fear of being accosted by protesters and others said they had ” afraid to come back.
The OSA could not immediately be reached for comment.
Access to a federally protected abortion clinic
“While anti-abortion activists, like those who espouse any cause, are protected by the First Amendment when protesting, protesters cannot physically prevent others from exercising their rights,” said Stella Yarbrough. , chief legal officer of the ACLU of Tennessee, in a statement last week. after a protest incident at the Mt. Juliet Clinic.
Carafem argued that the protesters violated the 1994 federal FACE law that prohibits interference with reproductive health services, even temporarily.
Operation Save America calls itself an evangelical group and has been promoting a national conference meeting in Nashville-area churches in recent days. The fundamentalist Christian group also held a rally at the Tennessee Capitol on Saturday.
In promotional materials, the band erroneously claimed that a near-total abortion ban was in effect in Tennessee, calling the timing of their event “a godsend”.
Although a 30-day countdown to the implementation of the ban began last week, abortion remains legal in Tennessee until a so-called fetal heartbeat can be detected. , about 6 weeks gestation.
Members of the group have previously faced legal action for their tactics outside of reproductive health clinics. A previous iteration of the group was prosecuted by the US Department of Justice.
New York State Attorney General Letitia James in 2021 sued Bevelyn Beatty, now Williams, and Chavannes, alleging the two repeatedly barred patients from entering a family planning clinic and threatened of violence against patients and staff, according to the Associated Press.
The lawsuit was later settled, with Beatty and Chavannes agreeing to respect a buffer zone around the entrance to the clinic. Both were included in Tennessee’s restraining order.
In May, 11 people were arrested during protests led by anti-abortion group Operation Save America after they blocked the entrance to a Louisville clinic in the same city where, in 2017, another buffer zone was created.
The order specifically names 10 OSA members, including Chavannes and the two Williams. Also included are OSA National Director Jason Storms, of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and other members:
- Chester Gallagher, of Nevada,
- Matthew Brock, of South Carolina,
- Coleman Boyd, of Mississippi,
- Frank “Bo” Linam, from Tennessee, who Carafem says visits the clinic several times a week,
- Brent Buckley, of Murfreesboro, and
- AJ Hurley, from California.
All would have stayed in a hotel in Murfreesboro.
As of Tuesday morning, no attorneys were listed for the defendants in the federal court system and it was unclear whether they had been served.
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