In one of the first mass demonstrations of the 1996 Republican National Convention, police Saturday arrested 27 anti-abortion protesters who blocked the doors of an abortion clinic.
The demonstrators, who were led by Operation Rescue director Flip Benham, were charged with trespassing and released. Each then returned to a protest site outside La Mesa’s Family Planning Associates clinic, where they joined others in loud prayers and chanting.
The anti-abortion protesters also were confronted by about 50 abortion rights demonstrators who arrived for a counter-demonstration across the street from the clinic in this bedroom community about 10 miles northeast of San Diego.
Dorothy Boyett was among anti-abortion protesters who were charged. She said she has participated in numerous clinic actions during the last five years and has been arrested at least a dozen times.
“I have rescued before,” said Boyett. “Jesus gave me life so I can give mine. Symbolically, I’m laying down my life so others may live.”
About 125 anti-abortion protesters, traveling in a caravan of buses and other vehicles, descended on the clinic about 8 a.m. About half entered the three-story office building housing the clinic, quickly marched through the lobby, up a flight of stairs and sat outside the clinic’s doors.
By the time police arrived - a force of about 100 La Mesa and San Diego officers - the protesters were praying and chanting. None of the protesters, however, ventured past the front doors of the facility, one of a few in San Diego County open Saturday.
After about an hour of consultation with clinic directors and negotiations with anti-abortion leaders, La Mesa police officers wearing riot gear moved into the hallway. Each of the protesters was told that they faced trespassing charges unless they left voluntarily. Many left.
Those who remained were booked and fingerprinted inside the hallway and then led outside by officers.
The demonstrators offered no resistance and none were physically removed from the site. The demonstrations outside the clinic - by both camps - disbanded about noon.
Representatives of the clinic, whose parent company is headquartered in Long Beach, declined comment.