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Context of 'September 3, 2003: Anti-Abortion Activist Executed for Murder of Abortion Provider, Bodyguard'

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One of a number of semi-official logos for the Army of God. The logo depicts the organization’s slogan: ‘Get Ready to Fight for Holiness and Righteousness.’One of a number of semi-official logos for the Army of God. The logo depicts the organization’s slogan: ‘Get Ready to Fight for Holiness and Righteousness.’ [Source: ilovejesusforever (.com)]An anonymous member (or members) of the Army of God (see 1982, August 1982, and July 1988) produces the “Army of God Manual,” a privately printed, closely guarded “how-to” manual for activists, showing how to harass, attack, and even kill abortion providers. Years after its initial printing, the apparent leader of the movement, the Reverend Donald Spitz, will post on the Army of God Web site: “I first became aware of the Army of God Manual in the early ‘80s, when I was given a copy by another anti-abortionist. Apparently, it had been circulated among anti-abortionists throughout the country; unknown to the government, pro-aborts, or the media, for some time. Just how long it had been in circulation prior to my receiving a copy, I do not know.” [Army of God, 1999]
Donald Spitz - Government documents will describe Spitz as the “webmaster” of the Army of God Web site, and the spiritual advisor to former minister Paul Hill, who will later be convicted of murdering a physician and his bodyguard (see July 29, 1994). Spitz will post running correspondence on the AOG site from anti-abortion activist Clayton Waagner, who will confess to sending over 550 letters containing fake anthrax to abortion clinics (see 1997-December 2001). He will also post numerous racist and homophobic diatribes on the AOG site. Spitz will be ejected from Operation Rescue, another anti-abortion group, in 1993 after the murder of Dr. David Gunn (see March 10, 1993); abortion doctor murderer John Salvi (see December 30, 1994 and After) will be found to have Spitz’s unlisted phone number after his arrest. A copy of the AOG manual will be found in 1993, buried in the backyard of an AOG member who will have attempted to murder an abortion provider (see August 19, 1993). [Extremist Groups: Information for Students, 1/1/2006]
Methods of Disrupting, Bombing Clinics - Initially, the manual details a number ways of disrupting or closing down abortion clinics, from gluing locks and using butyric acid against clinic machinery to arson and bomb threats. The manual contains instructions for making bombs using plastic explosive. A November 1992 epilogue will advocate the murder of abortion providers. [Kushner, 2003, pp. 38]
Interview - The manual also contains an undated interview with an anonymous member of the Army of God, conducted by an interviewer calling himself “The Mad Gluer.” The person interviewed says their intention is to “[d]rive the abortion industry underground with or without the sanction of government law,” using “[e]xplosives, predominantly.” The bombs are designed to “disarm… the murder weapons,” referring to the equipment used in abortion clinics, and “by disarming the persons perpetrating the crimes by removing their hands, or at least their thumbs below the second digit.” The interviewer says that such violence is not actually violence, because it “caus[es] my neighbor no longer to be able to murder innocent citizens.… No, don’t misunderstand me! The only rational way to respond to the knowledge of an imminent and brutal murder is direct action.” Told by the interviewer that “nobody can live” in a constant state of violence against abortion providers, the interview subject responds: “That’s the point. We must die in order that others might live.” The interviewer rejects the notion that Jesus Christ, Mahatma Gandhi, or Martin Luther King Jr. practiced non-violence to force social change. They say that “executing abortionists” is not the proper way to combat the practice of abortion, though “it [is] easily justified” by Biblical teaching. Rather, the Army of God “adheres to the principle of minimum force. Mercy, rather than justice is the driving force behind our actions. Or, to say it another way, we are merciful in our pursuit of justice, in our pursuit of peace.” The interview subject recommends that anyone who opposes abortion “should commit to destroying at least one death camp, or disarming at least one baby killer. The former is a relatively easy task—the latter could be quite difficult to accomplish. The preferred method for the novice would be gasoline and matches. Straight and easy. No tracks. You’ve kind of got to pour and light and leave real fast because of the flammability factor. Kerosene is great, but a little more traceable, so you will not want to buy it and use it in the same day.” Explosives using time-delay fuses are “my personal favorite,” the interviewer says. Asked about “chemical warfare,” the interviewer says, “I think that should remain classified information at this time.” In conclusion, the interviewer says: “We desperately need single lone rangers out there, who will commit to destroy one abortuary before they die. Most genuine pro-lifers praise and worship God when an abortuary is destroyed. It matters little what stripe of activist you are talking about. Rescuers, political activists, or covert operators are all thankful. And it’s common knowledge what the insurance costs are like after a good bombing.” [Army of God, 1999]

Entity Tags: John Salvi, Clayton Waagner, Army of God, Paul Hill, David Gunn, Donald Spitz

Timeline Tags: US Health Care, Domestic Propaganda, US Domestic Terrorism

Randall Terry, a former used-car salesman and anti-abortion activist, forms a group he calls “Operation Rescue” in Binghamton, New York. Terry is a protege of Joseph Scheidler (see 1980 and 1985). Terry’s organization focuses on what it calls “rescues,” usually full-scale blockades of women’s health clinics. In many of these actions, hundreds of activists will be arrested. [Kushner, 2003, pp. 38-39]

Entity Tags: Randall Terry, Joseph Scheidler, Operation Rescue

Timeline Tags: US Health Care, Domestic Propaganda, US Domestic Terrorism

Members of the Pro-Life Action Network (PLAN—see 1980 and 1986) enter a women’s health clinic, the Pensacola Ladies Center, in Pensacola, Florida. They attack the clinic administrator, throwing her down the stairs; attack and injure an official of the National Organization for Women (NOW); blockade the clinic; and wreck medical equipment. During the attack, PLAN president Joseph Scheidler stands outside, praising the attackers and publicly claiming credit for the incident. The clinic will close for several days for repairs. [National Organization for Women, 9/2002] The Ladies Center was firebombed twice in 1984 by anti-abortion activists (see 1984). [Kushner, 2003, pp. 38] One of the protesters who takes part in the blockade and assault is James Kopp, who in 1998 will murder an abortion provider (see October 23, 1998). [Womens eNews, 3/30/2001]

Entity Tags: Pensacola Ladies Center, Joseph Scheidler, James Kopp, Pro-Life Action League, National Organization for Women

Timeline Tags: US Health Care, US Domestic Terrorism

A prison photo of Michael Griffin.A prison photo of Michael Griffin. [Source: Bonnie's Life of Crime (.com)]Dr. David Gunn, a women’s doctor and abortion provider in Pensacola, Florida, is shot to death by anti-abortion advocate Michael Griffin, while members of the anti-abortion organization Rescue America protest outside his clinic. The protesters scream, chant, and wave signs declaring, “David Gunn Kills Babies.” Griffin steps forward from a group of protesters, yells, “Don’t kill any more babies!” and fires three shots into Gunn’s back as he is exiting his car. Gunn dies during surgery at a nearby hospital. Griffin informs police that he shot Gunn with a .38 revolver he is carrying, and surrenders to police officers without incident. Steve Powell, an employee at the office park which houses the clinic, later tells reporters that the Rescue America protesters seemed “just happy” after the shooting. Gunn had just opened the clinic a month before, and commuted to work from his home in Eufaula, Alabama. Gunn’s is one of two clinics providing abortions in Pensacola; the city also houses three “abortion counseling” facilities, operated by anti-abortion groups whose objective is to convince women not to have abortions. Gunn has received threats for several years, but in recent months the threats have become more dire. Recently, anti-abortion group Operation Rescue (OR—see 1986) featured Gunn in a “Wanted” poster (see 1995 and After) distributed in Montgomery, Alabama; the poster included Gunn’s photo, home phone number, and other identifying information. OR spokeswoman Margeaux Farrar says the organization knows nothing about the posters and did not print them. The Reverend Joseph Foreman, one of the group’s founders, says Gunn’s murder is just the beginning if the government continues to try to “silence” anti-abortion protesters. Foreman tells reporters, “I’ve been saying for years that if the government insists on suppressing normal and time-honored dissent through injunctions, it turns the field over to the rock-throwers, the bombers, and the assassins.” Many of Griffin’s colleagues and fellow protesters will argue that Gunn’s murder was “justifiable.” Many of those advocates are members of a newly formed organization, the American Coalition of Life Activists (ACLA—see July 1993). [Washington Post, 3/11/1993; Ms. Magazine, 12/2002; Kushner, 2003, pp. 39; CBS News, 4/19/2007] Griffin will be represented by Florida lawyer Joe Scarborough at some court proceedings, though Scarborough will not represent him at his actual trial. Scarborough (R-FL) will go on to represent his Florida district in the US House of Representatives. [New York Times, 10/25/1994]

Entity Tags: Joseph Foreman, Rescue America, Joseph Scarborough, David Gunn, American Coalition of Life Activists, Michael Griffin, Steve Powell, Operation Rescue, Margeaux Farrar

Timeline Tags: US Health Care, US Domestic Terrorism

ACLA protester advocates the ‘execution’ of abortion providers.ACLA protester advocates the ‘execution’ of abortion providers. [Source: Ms. Magazine]Former Presbyterian minister Paul Hill, an outspoken opponent of abortion, writes what he calls a “Defensive Action Statement” justifying the murder of abortion doctor David Gunn by anti-abortion activist Michael Griffin (see March 10, 1993). Hill and many like-minded anti-abortion activists split from the larger network of organizations to form the explicitly violent American Coalition for Life Activists (ACLA). A year later, Hill will murder a Florida doctor and his bodyguard (see July 29, 1994). [Kushner, 2003, pp. 39] The statement reads: “We, the undersigned, declare the justice of taking all godly action necessary to defend innocent human life including the use of force. We proclaim that whatever force is legitimate to defend the life of a born child is legitimate to defend the life of an unborn child. We assert that if Michael Griffin did in fact kill David Gunn, his use of lethal force was justifiable provided it was carried out for the purpose of defending the lives of unborn children. Therefore, he ought to be acquitted of the charges against him.” The statement is signed by Hill and a number of other anti-abortion activists, including Michael Bray (see September 1994) and Donald Spitz, the leader of the extremist organization Army of God (see 1982). It is published on the Army of God’s Web site. [Army of God, 7/1993]

Entity Tags: Michael Griffin, American Coalition for Life Activists, Army of God, David Gunn, Donald Spitz, Michael Bray, Paul Hill

Timeline Tags: US Health Care, US Domestic Terrorism

Dr. George Patterson, a woman’s health doctor in Mobile, Alabama, is shot to death behind a downtown X-rated movie theater. Patterson owns and operates four abortion clinics in Florida and Alabama. His murder comes two days after a Kansas abortion provider, Dr. George Tiller, was shot (see August 19, 1993), and Patterson owns the Pensacola, Florida, clinic where Dr. David Gunn was murdered (see March 10, 1993). Patterson had taken over Gunn’s duties in the Pensacola clinic. Patterson’s wallet is not taken, leading police to believe the shooting was politically motivated and not the result of a robbery. Anti-abortion activist Paul Hill of Pensacola says that whether or not Patterson’s murder had anything to do with his abortion provisions, “the killing has stopped, and so it had the desired result.” Hill will himself murder another abortion provider less than a year later (see July 29, 1994). Witnesses tell police that Patterson, who frequented the theater, got into an altercation with another man as that man stood near Patterson’s car. The man fired a pistol shot into the ground, witnesses say, the two struggled, and then the man shot Patterson in the neck. The man jumped into Patterson’s Cadillac, but quickly got out, leapt into his own car, and drove away. Abortion advocates say Patterson liked to keep out of the public eye; Dr. Bruce Lucero, another Alabama abortion provider, says that Patterson “urged me to take a lower profile and said bad things happened to people who were too visible.” Still, Patterson’s clinic had been the frequent target of anti-abortion protests. One member of a protest group, Vicki Kline of Alabama Citizens for Life, says: “I didn’t know him by sight, but just that he did a lot of abortions. I certainly wouldn’t wish him ill, and in fact I prayed for his conversion for a number of years. But I guess he who lives by the sword perishes by the sword.” Two weeks later, Winston McCoy of nearby Eight Mile is arrested for Patterson’s murder. Investigators say they can find no evidence of a connection between Patterson’s murder and his medical practice. [New York Times, 8/29/1993; Associated Press, 9/5/1993]

Entity Tags: George Tiller, Alabama Citizens for Life, Bruce Lucero, George Patterson, Vicki Kline, David Gunn, Winston McCoy, Paul Hill

Timeline Tags: US Health Care

During this six-month period, 52 percent of the women’s health clinics providing abortions in the US are subjected to violence, including arson, bombings, and shootings (see July 29, 1994, September 1994, and December 30, 1994 and After). Numerous abortion clinics and providers in Canada are also targeted by anti-abortion activists (see November 8, 1994). According to author and researcher Harvey Kushner, anti-abortion extremists escalated their violence against abortion providers because of the Clinton administration’s repeal of many anti-abortion regulations perpetuated by the Reagan and Bush administrations, and the passage of the FACE Act (see May 1994). [Kushner, 2003, pp. 39-40]

Entity Tags: Clinton administration, Harvey Kushner

Timeline Tags: US Health Care, US Domestic Terrorism

Paul Hill, speaking to reporters after his conviction for murder.Paul Hill, speaking to reporters after his conviction for murder. [Source: Trosch (.org)]Dr. John Britton, a physician and abortion provider, and volunteer security escort Jim Barrett, a retired Air Force colonel, are shot to death outside the Ladies Center in Pensacola, Florida, by Paul Hill, a leader of the radical anti-abortion group American Coalition for Life Activists (ACLA—see July 1993). [Washington Post, 1998; Kushner, 2003, pp. 39; Fox News, 9/3/2003] Eight years before, several officials at the same clinic were attacked by anti-abortion protesters (see March 26, 1986). Hill later says he was inspired by the 1993 murder of another Pensacola abortion provider, Dr. David Gunn (see March 10, 1993). He bought a new shotgun after the Gunn slaying, and practiced on a firing range. The morning of the murder, as Britton, Barrett, and Barrett’s wife June enter the clinic parking lot, Hill opens fire, shooting Barrett in the head and chest. He then reloads and shoots Britton and Barrett’s wife. Dr. Britton is fatally wounded in the head and chest, while Mrs. Barrett sustains wounds in her arm. Hill then puts the shotgun down to avoid being shot himself by police, and walks away from the scene. He is arrested within minutes, and tells officers, “I know one thing, no innocent babies are going to be killed in that clinic today.” [Fox News, 9/3/2003] Hill will be executed for his crimes in 2003 (see September 3, 2003).

Entity Tags: David Gunn, John Britton, June Barrett, Jim Barrett, Paul Hill

Timeline Tags: US Health Care, US Domestic Terrorism

The extremist Army of God anti-abortion organization (AOG—see 1982) issues what it terms a “Second Defensive Action Statement” on behalf of Paul Hill, who murdered an abortion provider and his bodyguard a month before (see July 29, 1994). The first “Defensive Action Statement” was written by Hill in support of another anti-abortion murderer (see July 1993). The statement, signed by over a dozen anti-abortion activists, reads: “We the undersigned, declare the justice of taking all godly action necessary, including the use of force, to defend innocent human life (born and unborn). We proclaim that whatever force is legitimate to defend the life of a born child is legitimate to defend the life of an unborn child. We declare and affirm that if in fact Paul Hill did kill or wound abortionist John Britton, and accomplices James Barrett and Mrs. Barrett, his actions are morally justified if they were necessary for the purpose of defending innocent human life. Under these conditions, Paul Hill should be acquitted of all charges against him.” [Army of God, 8/1994]

Entity Tags: Paul Hill, John Britton, June Barrett, Army of God, Jim Barrett

Timeline Tags: US Health Care, Domestic Propaganda, US Domestic Terrorism

In January 2001, Michael Bray poses with the ‘Gas Can’ Award given to him by the Army of God for his advocacy of violence against abortion clinics.In January 2001, Michael Bray poses with the ‘Gas Can’ Award given to him by the Army of God for his advocacy of violence against abortion clinics. [Source: Ms. Magazine]Michael Bray, a radical anti-abortion activist and convicted clinic bomber, publishes A Time to Kill, a book giving religious justification for the murder of abortion providers and their staff members. [Kushner, 2003, pp. 39] The book maintains that there is a “biblical mandate” for the use of “deadly, godly force to protect the unborn.” [Ms. Magazine, 12/2002]

Entity Tags: Michael Bray

Timeline Tags: US Health Care, Domestic Propaganda, US Domestic Terrorism

Anti-abortion activist and alleged murderer John Salvi (see December 30, 1994 and After) receives an outpouring of support from a small group of fellow anti-abortion protesters. In December 1994, Salvi killed two women in Massachusetts clinics, and attempted to kill more at the Hillcrest Clinic in Norfolk, near where he is being held in jail. The activists and protesters gather near the jail to mount a rally of support. Anti-abortion leader Donald Spitz, a local pastor and a leader of the violent Army of God movement (see 1982), leads a “prayer vigil” outside of the prison. Through a bullhorn, Spitz shouts: “Thank you for saving innocent babies from being put to death. John Salvi, we care about you. We love you. We support you.” The Boston Globe notes that the Norfolk area is home to many anti-abortion protesters and organizations, and writes that it is an “area where televangelist Pat Robertson and his Christian Broadcasting Network are considered mainstream.” Spitz, the head of Pro-Life Virginia, acknowledges that he and his group have picketed the Hillcrest Clinic for years, and tells reporters, “If John Salvi committed his deeds with the intent of saving innocent human babies from being put to death, his deeds were justified.” Spitz, who does not inform reporters of his connection with the Army of God, and other protesters carry signs that term Salvi a “prisoner of war.” Another protester, Ed Hyatt, calls Salvi a “hero” for killing abortion providers, and says Salvi is comparable to other “heroes” such as Michael Griffin (see March 10, 1993) and Paul Hill (see July 29, 1994). “Why is the life of a receptionist worth more than the lives of 50 innocent babies?” Spitz asks. “I don’t know why all the focus is on two receptionists when every day thousands of babies are being killed.” Kate Michelman of the National and Reproductive Rights Action League says that the Hillcrest staff has been subjected to “intense harassment and intimidation for many years… it’s a hotbed” of anti-abortion activity. The clinic has been bombed, invaded, set on fire, blockaded, and picketed. Spitz has identified at least one clinic doctor as a “war criminal” in over 800 posters he mailed to fellow doctors and neighbors. Anti-abortion leader David Crane tells reporters: “John Salvi was acting in defense of innocent life. He was willing to pay the ultimate price to stop legalized killing.” [Boston Globe, 1/2/1995; Extremist Groups: Information for Students, 1/1/2006]

Entity Tags: National and Reproductive Rights Action League, Boston Globe, Army of God, David Crane, Kate Michelman, Donald Spitz, Pro-Life Virginia, John Salvi, Ed Hyatt

Timeline Tags: US Health Care, Domestic Propaganda, US Domestic Terrorism

District Court Judge David Coar reverses earlier court decisions and reinstates a lawsuit filed by the National Organization for Women (NOW) against anti-abortion advocates (see June 1986). NOW president Patricia Ireland says, “We’re thrilled and anti-abortion terrorists ought to be shaking in their boots.” The ruling allows NOW to investigate defendants’ recent actions, including murders and attempted murders by anti-abortion activists (see August 19, 1993 and July 29, 1994). [National Organization for Women, 9/22/1995; National Organization for Women, 9/2002]

Entity Tags: Patricia Ireland, National Organization for Women, David Coar

Timeline Tags: US Health Care, US Domestic Terrorism

The Vail resort in flames.The Vail resort in flames. [Source: Mark Mobley / Colorado Independent]Earth Liberation Front (ELF—see 1997) activists set fire to a Vail, Colorado, ski resort, causing $12 million in damage. At the time, the Vail attack is the costliest ecoterrorist attack in US history. The attack consists of seven separate fires, which destroy three buildings, including the “spectacular” Two Elk restaurant, and damage four chairlifts. In a press release, the ELF says: “[P]utting profits ahead of Colorado’s wildlife will not be tolerated.… We will be back if this greedy corporation continues to trespass into wild and unroaded [sic] areas.” [Anti-Defamation League, 2005; Colorado Independent, 10/19/2008]
Resort Threatens Lynx Habitat - The ELF justifies the bombing by claiming that the resort encroaches on the natural habitat of Canada lynx in the area, an endangered species; an 885-acre planned expansion would, the group claims, virtually destroy the habitat. The resort and other construction have virtually eliminated all lynx from the area. [Outside, 9/2007; Colorado Independent, 10/19/2008; Rocky Mountain News, 11/20/2008]
Activist Says ELF Not a Terrorist Group - In a 2007 jailhouse interview, one of the activists, Chelsea Dawn Gerlach, will discuss her role in the bombing. An activist since her mid-teens, she began by getting involved with “above ground” protests with Earth First! (see 1980 and After), a less overtly militant environmental organization, and became disillusioned when she saw how little effect such protests had on corporate depredations. She will say that she and her colleagues were extremely careful about buying the materials for the firebombs, not wanting to raise suspicions. They built the actual devices in a Utah motel room, with group leader William C. Rodgers, whom Gerlach and the others call “Avalon,” doing the bulk of the work. After performing a final reconnaisance of the lodge, some of the ELF members decide the bombing cannot be done, and return to Oregon. Rodgers actually plants the devices and sets them off; Gerlach, who accompanies Rodgers and others to the resort, later emails the statements released under the ELF rubric. Gerlach will say: “We weren’t arsonists. Many of our actions didn’t involve fires at all, and none of us fit the profile of a pyromaniac. I guess ‘eco-saboteur’ works. To call us terrorists, as the federal government did, is stretching the bounds of credibility. I got involved at a time when a right-winger had just bombed the Oklahoma City federal building—killing 168 people—(see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995) and anti-abortionists were murdering doctors (see March 10, 1993 and July 29, 1994). But the government characterized the ELF as a top domestic terrorism threat because we burned down unoccupied buildings in the middle of the night. It shows their priorities.” [Outside, 9/2007]
Apprehensions, Convictions - The Vail firebombing focuses national attention on the organization, as well as on other “ecoterror” groups that use vandalism, arson, and other destructive methods to further their agendas. In December 2006, Gerlach and Stanislas Gregory Meyerhoff will plead guilty to federal arson charges. Gerlach and Meyerhoff have already pled guilty to other arsons committed between 1996 and 2001 by a Eugene-based ELF cell known as the Family, which disbanded in 2001. (Gerlach will say that the Family took great pains to ensure that while property was destroyed, no one was injured; “In Eugene in the late nineties, more than a couple of timber company offices were saved by the proximity of neighboring homes.”) The FBI learned about them from an informant who enticed friends of the two to speak about the crimes in surreptitiously recorded conversations. Both are sentenced to lengthy jail terms and assessed multi-million dollar restitution fines. Two others indicted in the arson, Josephine Sunshine Overaker and Rebecca J. Rubin, who do not directly participate in the Vail firebombing, remain at large. Rodgers will commit suicide in an Arizona jail in December 2005 after being apprehended. Several others will later be arrested and convicted for their roles in the assault. [Associated Press, 12/14/2006; Outside, 9/2007; Colorado Independent, 10/19/2008; Rocky Mountain News, 11/20/2008]
Firebombing Detrimental to Local Activism - Gerlach will later say that the Vail firebombing was actually detrimental to local environmental activism. [Outside, 9/2007] In 2008, Ryan Bidwell, the executive director of Colorado Wild, will agree. He will say that the fires damaged the trust the community once had in the environmental activist movement, and will add that the federal government used the fires to demonize the entire environmental movement. “I don’t think it really changed the Bush administration agenda, but it probably made their job easier by lumping those actions onto the broad umbrella of terrorism over the last decade,” Bidwell will say. “I don’t think that’s been effective at all, but every time that someone lumps groups here in Colorado under the same umbrella as ELF it’s really disingenuous. In places like Vail that have a history it’s made it more important for the conservation community to communicate what its objectives are.” [Colorado Independent, 10/19/2008]

Entity Tags: Rebecca J. Rubin, Chelsea Dawn Gerlach, Earth First!, Josephine Sunshine Overaker, Earth Liberation Front, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Colorado Wild, Bush administration (43), Ryan Bidwell, William C. Rodgers, Stanislas Gregory Meyerhoff

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

Former anti-abortion activist Jerry Reiter, the author of the recent book Live From the Gates of Hell: An Insider’s Look at the Anti-Abortion Underground, gives an interview to the St. Petersburg Times about his book and his days with the controversial anti-abortion organization Operation Rescue (OR—see 1986). Reiter was media coordinator for the group, but after becoming disillusioned with its violent tactics, became an FBI informant, giving the FBI information on OR and other anti-abortion groups. Reiter now says that some respected conservative Christians have tacitly condoned the violence practiced by OR and other anti-abortion groups during the 1990s. “One of the things that surprised me about the Christian Coalition was that even though it publicly denounced the illegal tactics of groups like Operation Rescue,” Reiter wrote, “when the big national anti-abortion protest came to Buffalo in 1992, Operation Rescue National housed its secret command and communication offices in the basement suite of offices that the Christian Coalition of New York had as its state headquarters.” He says that after entering “the secret command post of Operation Rescue, I was given books on dozens of not-so-peaceful activities, including a book by Reverend Michael Bray advocating the bombing of abortion clinics” (see September 1994). Reiter says that many anti-abortion activists “use the Bible to justify all kinds of evil.” He is still against abortion, but does not advocate legal restrictions on the practice. “I want to see abortions reduced,” he says. “Sex education, birth control, and availability of health care options is the way to go. Those people who oppose abortion are often those who oppose sex education, birth control, and other health care options.” Explaining why he became an FBI informant, Reiter says of his OR colleagues, “I realized that these people were very serious about doing harm to people.” He recalls speaking with Paul Hill, who in 1994 murdered an abortion provider and his bodyguard (see July 29, 1994). Weeks before Hill killed the two men, he told Reiter: “What you’re gonna see next now, brother, is an IRA-type reign of terror [referring to the Irish Republican Army]. There’s too much pressure on all of us, too many people watching us to do anything major under direct orders from the national level, so what you’re gonna see is individuals or small groups of people takin’ action in their own hands to do what the leaders want to see done, but since there won’t be any direct orders given, no one can prove conspiracy.” Reiter says his information did not prevent Hill’s murders, but was able to prevent another spate of possibly lethal violence during a 1994 event in Florida. “If I hadn’t done something at the time, it’s likely they would have been successful and hundreds could have been killed.… I had the most unique background. I was able to see the most radical, most dangerous people in the country as they were formulating their plans.” Reiter concludes: “The mainstream anti-abortion movement has shrunk dramatically and now you just see more hard-core people. It’s not a calm situation. The days of the little old ladies with the rosaries have been replaced with this radical, vitriolic group.… The people around Paul Hill, once he is executed (see September 3, 2003), they are planning to rise up and take action. They are planning to give us unprecedented violence.” [St. Petersburg Times, 1/6/2001]

Entity Tags: St. Petersburg Times, Christian Coalition of New York, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Jerry Reiter, Michael Bray, Paul Hill, Operation Rescue

Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism

Paul Hill, a former minister convicted of the murder of Dr. John Britton and bodyguard James Barrett (see July 29, 1994), is put to death by lethal injection. Hill is the first person executed in the US for anti-abortion violence. Florida Governor Jeb Bush (R-FL) ignores calls by death penalty opponents and threats from anti-abortion activists to stop the execution, saying he will not be “bullied” into stopping Hill’s execution. Hill dies via a lethal injection. Florida abortion clinics are on heightened alert for reprisals and attacks; several clinic officials have received death threats in recent weeks. Hill has never contested his execution, instead insisting that he merely followed God’s orders in killing Britton and Barrett. He has maintained that God will forgive him for the murders. “I expect a great reward in heaven,” he said just days before his execution. “I am looking forward to glory.” Hill has called for others to use violence to prevent abortions. Many extremist anti-abortion organizations openly proclaim Hill as a martyr for their cause, while more mainstream anti-abortion organizations have denounced Hill’s use of violence. [Fox News, 9/3/2003; CBS News, 4/19/2007] Father David C. Trosch, a staunch supporter of Hill, will write a eulogy of sorts for him three days after the execution. Trosch was present during at least one day of court proceedings, and will complain that Hill was not allowed “to speak to the jury regarding his motive for killing an abortion provider and an assistant.” According to Trosch, “It was a justifiable deed as he was defending innocent pre-born, tiny, perfectly formed human beings, each carrying a fully formed human spirit, given to them by God, at their conception.” Trosch will write that he is more saddened by Hill’s execution than he was by the loss of any number of his family members, including his parents, wife, and children. [David C. Trosch, 9/6/2003]

Entity Tags: Paul Hill, Jim Barrett, John Britton, John Ellis (“Jeb”) Bush, David C. Trosch

Timeline Tags: US Health Care, US Domestic Terrorism

The Reverend Phillip “Flip” Benham, director of Operation Save America, once known as Operation Rescue (see 1986, July 1988, August 1988, July-August 1991, January 7, 1998, April 20, 1998, October 23, 1998, and January 13, 2003), is convicted of stalking a Charlotte, North Carolina, doctor. A jury takes a little over 90 minutes to convict Benham. One juror tells a reporter that it was obvious after looking at the stalking statute that Benham “violated every part of it.… He went to the doctor’s house. He went into the doctor’s office and took pictures. He spoke to neighbors and called him a murderer. That is harassing. That causes fear.” Mecklenburg County prosecutors say Benham sought to scare the doctor from practicing in Charlotte. Benham, whose group operates out of nearby Concord, North Carolina, was convicted of the same charges almost a year earlier (see November 8, 2010), but exercised his right to a jury trial. He is convicted of misdeameanor stalking because he distributed posters with a doctor’s name and photo on “Wanted” posters. The posters read, “Wanted… By Christ, to Stop Killing Babies.” The doctor in question provides abortions. Benham also illegally entered the doctor’s home and his clinic to take photographs, and he and his supporters posted hundreds of the “Wanted” flyers around the doctor’s neighborhood. Benham is sentenced to 18 months’ probation and ordered to stop his behaviors. The “abortion industry” and the city of Charlotte have succeeded in “removing our voice from the street,” Benham says. “I can’t speak. I can’t get within 500 feet. They’ve stolen from innocent babies a voice that has spoken for them.” Several other abortion providers have been murdered after similar flyers were distributed in other cities, including Dr. David Gunn (see March 10, 1993), Dr. George Patterson (see August 21, 1993 and After), Dr. John Britton (see July 29, 1994), and Dr. George Tiller (see May 31, 2009). DuVergne Gaines, the legal coordinator for the Feminist Majority Foundation, which provides legal and security assistance to Charlotte-area women’s health clinics, says, “For too long, Benham and his organization have been able to stalk and terrorize abortion providers and their families with impunity.” Benham’s lawyer says he will file an appeal, and says Benham’s actions have nothing to do with the murders of the previous doctors. Benham says he will continue to protest at other abortion clinics; as for the doctor he was convicted of stalking, he says, “There will be other people who will come and stand up for what’s right.” [Charlotte Observer, 7/2/2011]

Entity Tags: Philip (“Flip”) Benham, DuVergne Gaines, Operation Save America

Timeline Tags: US Health Care, US Domestic Terrorism

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