Groups Trade Accusations, Insults Along Pennsylvania Avenue
Autor: Carol Morello,Yolanda Woodlee Fuente: Washington Post

With a Bible in his left hand and a bullhorn in his right, Jeff Schneider, a salesman from Ohio, directed his scorn toward the sea of abortion rights activists marching past the spot he had staked out along Pennsylvania Avenue.

"You're murdering innocent babies," he shouted, pointing at a huge placard showing a bloody fetus. "Look at the picture -- they have fingers and toes."

Young women in pink T-shirts looked in his direction as they chanted, "Pro life, that's a lie. You don't care if we live or die."

"Keep your legs closed, ladies," a man standing next to Schneider called out.

"Choice! Choice!" they chanted back.

"You buying shoes?" the man asked them, with a sneer. "You're killing babies."

Pennsylvania Avenue became the vitriolic front line of two warring factions kept apart by a flimsy police barricade yesterday. Antiabortion activists obtained a permit to demonstrate along the sidewalks between 15th and Seventh streets NW. More than 200 people, many of them carrying rosaries and pictures of Jesus, spread out along the eight blocks, forming a phalanx armed with graphic placards of fetuses as well as newborn infants over the words "celebrate life." Many shouted, "Baby killers!"

Many marchers hurled back their own rancorous invective, calling out four-letter words, booing and matching insult for insult. Others simply shook their heads sadly as they walked past priests praying and making the sign of the cross, or posters equating abortion with Nazi genocide and Ku Klux Klan lynchings.

"It's not your business," one marcher said angrily to a man holding an antiabortion placard. "It's my body. My rights. My freedom."

The antiabortion demonstration, organized by the group Operation Witness, began with a Mass in Freedom Plaza led by priests from the International Communion of the Charismatic Episcopal Church, which they described as an evangelical order. In a brief show of civil disobedience, about 60 antiabortion demonstrators blocked the intersection of 15th Street and Constitution Avenue, lying in a fetal position and drawing chalk outlines of themselves on the pavement before police ordered them to leave.

Randall Terry, the founder of Operation Rescue and an antiabortion group called the Society for Truth and Justice, dismissed the significance of the lopsided turnout, with about 1,000 antiabortion demonstrators outweighed by hundreds of thousands of abortion rights marchers.

"The fact they have a large crowd means nothing," he said. "There were big crowds for Hitler in 1935. That didn't help him in 1945."

The counter-protesters deployed themselves so that every block had a theme. Marchers passed a block lined by protesters holding pictures of first-trimester fetuses. After that came a block containing families with young children, a block with teenagers, a block with priests and one lined with women dressed in black to mourn the children they had aborted.

"Not a day goes past that I don't wish I had walked out of that abortion clinic," said Antoinette Carr, 42, of Manassas, who has since attended a post-abortion "counseling" center where she imagines the sex of her child and assigns a name to it. Carr plans to start a baby clothing business and name it after the daughter she imagines she had, Anylah.

Many of the counter-demonstrators came with children. Josh and Kathy Tribble of Chesapeake, Va., brought their adopted daughter, Bakhita, who is almost 2.

"This is the face of abortion," said Kathy Tribble, who is 29 and white, pointing to her daughter, who is African American. "You don't tell a child, 'No, you don't deserve a home because you're the wrong color.' "

Debates between abortion rights supporters and antiabortion activists regularly reached a fevered pitch, as both sides shouted accusations at each other.

Mick Greineder of Lancaster, Pa., sat perched on a ledge across from the Ronald Reagan Building and yelled at the marchers, "Choice kills. Choice kills."

"I think some of them can hear me," the 55-year-old engineer said. "If I scream at 700,000 and I get one or two people to change their mind, it's worth losing my voice."

A veteran antiabortion activist since the Supreme Court decided Roe v. Wade in 1973, he vowed, "I will come every year until that terrible decision is overturned."

Terry predicted that abortion will be outlawed in another quarter-century.

"Young people are rejecting the pro-choice ethics of their parents," said Terry, 45. "In my lifetime, we will extend the protection of the law to unborn children."
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