Pro-choice activists are calling for a rally at an Akron abortion clinic this weekend. Earlier this month, weekly protests turned violent when a volatile and colorful crowd clashed just outside downtown, at the Akron Women’s Medical Group.
July was a busy month. Regular attendees say the anti-abortion side has been unusually rambunctious and aggressive since the May assassination of Kansas late-term abortion provider Dr. George Tiller. And the usual screaming suburbanites were joined by Jericho Riders Motorcycle Ministry, a Missouri-based Christian motorcycle group. The Jericho Riders had the clinic on their schedule of missions for the month (in addition to gay pride events from Missouri to Las Vegas).
The pro-choice counter-demonstartors were outnumbered. Charles Wright, 50, a former vice-president of Akron’s National Organization for Women, was one of them on Saturday, July 18. He didn’t want to be there. But his longtime partner, Thomas Reke, is friends with people who work the pro-choice side. Reke knew numbers were down. He was afraid somebody could get hurt. He was right.
Witnesses say that when screaming lead to face-to-face confrontation, a biker hit Wright with a crushing blow that sent him crashing to the sidewalk, breaking six ribs. As the crowd backed away from the fallen protester, the biker rode off on his motorcycle, barely stopping to let his companion climb aboard.
“The man that attacked Charles was first assaulted and provoked by Charles, according to witnesses,” says Carroll. “The individual that was involved in this incident is in no way associated with or a member of the Jericho Riders. That type of behavior would not be tolerated from anyone in this ministry. We do however have video of one of our members rendering aid to the man that was injured.… Mike Tice, one of the Jericho Riders rendering aid to Charles was assault by a woman… who is employed by the abortion mill. We do have a video of this assault, and charges will be filed.”
Akron Police are treating the incident as an assault against Wright, which — as opposed to a felonious assault — doesn’t warrant active investigation. No arrest has been made.
Wright and Reke skipped the following weekend’s protest. They’re unsure when or if they’ll return. Their friend Lee Thompson, a Clevelander, hopes Wright didn’t take a beating in vain. Thompson, a former clinic escort, is calling for extra support at the Akron clinic (839 E. Market St.) this Saturday, August 1.
“Charles could have been killed,” says Thompson. “People in Akron really need the support of people from all over Northeast Ohio. This kind of attack really scares people. There is a whole fascist movement in this country to kill and intimidate people who support women. Our message is ‘Abortion on demand, without apology.’ And we will not accept a situation where women will be intimidated.” — D.X. Ferris