It turns out, Huntsville street preacher James Henderson was absolutely correct about the danger of abortion clinics drawing a bunch of unsavory people who shouldn't be near children. We saw that just this morning at multiple locations in the Rocket City. Henderson and his confused band of misfits were joined early this morning at the Huntsville clinic's old location (one that's now a private OB/GYN office) by the Operation Save America group that drove up from Montgomery for a little fresh air and sidewalk bullying. Later, they turned up at the actual clinic which, to their consternation, had been well-protected by a variety of tarps, moving vans, and RVs that protected patients from the sidewalk shouters.
Both of these locations are near schools and child care centers, and that's the rationale that Henderson gave when he tried to convince the city to stop the clinic from moving. Foiled at the local level, he convinced Ed Henry to introduce a bill specifically targeted at the Huntsville clinic. At the public hearing on the bill, supporters repeatedly cited their own bad behavior as something “school children” shouldn't be exposed to.
Which is pretty amazing when you consider that they regularly show up with children in tow – including today.
One important thing they failed to mention to the media and to the police is that they were planning to host Howard Scott Heldreth, a violent sex offender, at today's protests. Heldreth was at the old clinic location in downtown; he later traveled with the group to the actual clinic on Sparkman Drive.
But surprise! After law enforcement officers were alerted to his presence, Hildreth was informed that he had until 3pm to register with the county as a sex offender or try out the accommodations at the local jail.
Hildreth preferred to beat a path to his car instead of comply, and took a large number of the Montgomery contingent with him.
The protest broke up soon after, but not before wasting a huge amount of taxpayer money:
- Huntsville City Schools had to dispatch security guards to keep, the protesters off school property
- Three city employees spent their work day monitoring the volume of the protesters bullhorns and mics.
- At least 16 marked police cars and other unmarked cars, and several dozen police officers (totals for both locations) spent the morning babysitting protesters who insisted on trespassing, jaywalking, breaking noise ordinances, and – oh yes – welcoming a sex offender.
Of course, Huntsville's criminal has a record that pales next to the “pro-life” luminary who showed up in Montgomery. They had the dubious pleasure of hosting John Brockhoeft, a violent, unstable individual with a long and sordid history in the movement:
As part of a militant group known as the Army of God, Brockhoeft set fires to two local abortion clinics in 1985 and planted a pipe bomb at the temporary offices of one of them in 1987.
The attacker's identity was a mystery until federal agents arrested Brockhoeft in Florida with bomb-making materials in his car in May 1988.
Brockhoeft's days of setting fires and planting bombs came to an end in May 1988, when agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms arrested him near Pensacola, Fla. Tipped off by his first wife, agents stopped Brockhoeft's car and found steel pipe, explosive chemicals and detonators – which he planned to use to blow up an abortion clinic in Florida.
During a subsequent investigation, Brockhoeft was indicted on five counts of arson and one count of attempted arson for attacks in Cincinnati and Columbus.
To this day, he is coy about whether he was involved with five other attacks at clinics in Cincinnati and around Ohio the late 1970s, all of which remain unsolved.
More photos of today's protests in Huntsville are on the flip. Review our coverage of Roy Moore's keynote speech to the OSA convention.
Even if you missed the excitement, you can still do your part to support the women of Alabama. Alabama Reproductive Rights Advocates (ARRA), a statewide advocacy group is hosting a fundraiser called “Adopt an Anti.” It has a devliish premise:
- You pledge to specific amount for each protester present on any day between July 11 – July 18 (for example, ten cents per protester). You can decide to donate for one day or multiple days. (donation form is below)
- An ARRA member will count the number of protesters present at the clinic or city hall on each day and we will then send you a bill for your day/pledge. The total will be the amount you pledged times the number of protesters present. For example, if you pledge ten cents for Friday in front of the Huntsville Women’s Center and there are 100 protesters present, we'll send you a bill for $10.00. We are creating multiple creative ways to be sure that the protesters know that you are using their presence to support abortion care and the right to abortion!
- You can also specify a particular anti-choice protester you wish to sponsor.
Learn more & sign up for “Adopt an Anti.” At last count, organizers say they had raised about $2,000. Thank you, OSA!
How about this mug shot? Ick.