A larger-than-normal crowd descended upon a Charlotte abortion clinic Saturday and two people were cited in demonstrations for interfering with lawful assembly. The stepped-up activity comes, as the city continues to grapple with preserving both safety and free speech between pro-life and pro-choice groups at the site.
The pro-life group Love Life Charlotte led the prayer walk around A Preferred Women’s Health, as it does weekly, but Saturday’s walk marked the group’s 40th week of marching at the clinic this year — a number they noted because a pregnancy lasts about 40 weeks on average.
The group had hoped for 7,000 people to show up, though there were far fewer than that. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police didn’t provide a crowd size estimate, though it appeared there were several hundred pro-life supporters.
The pro-life group met in the morning, and gathered in a field just a short walk from the clinic. Families were hauled in on buses with their children in tow, each member wearing a bright blue “Love Life Charlotte” t-shirt.
After about an hour of music and testimony in the field, the group formed rows in the street and began to march toward the clinic.
Escorted by officers on bikes, the walkers sang and prayed as they made their way toward A Preferred Women’s Health, where they were met by pro-choice advocates who wanted to ensure women could safely access the clinic.
“It’s just another day,” said Jasmine Sherman of Pro-Choice Charlotte. “This is just their grand finale, but they do this 40 weeks, this is nothing.”
Sherman regularly attends A Preferred Women’s Health on Saturdays to help women navigate the crowds to access the clinic. In recent weeks, the city has installed cones and a fence to provide more distance between the pro-life and pro-choice groups, which she said has made it more organized.
However, Sherman would rather the city not use taxpayer resources like police each week for the demonstrations.
“I don’t know how much everybody makes per hour, but this isn’t free,” she said. “And it’s six days a week.”
A representative from Love Life Charlotte couldn’t be reached Saturday afternoon following the walk.
Daniel Parks, director of pro-life group Cities4Life, said he also wishes the city didn’t have to use resources every week at the clinic. The clinic and pro-choice activists, however, are to blame, he said.
“They barked in the ear of everybody they could in city government,” he said. “Six or seven police officers, here on a Saturday... is a waste of the city resources. But they’re only here to appease those people.”
Parks’ Cities4Life recently filed a lawsuit against the city, alleging that ordinances regulating sign use violates the group’s First Amendment rights. He declined to comment on the lawsuit.
Editor's note: This story was updated to reflect why police cited two protestors.
LaVendrick Smith: 704-358-5101; @LaVendrickS