To veteran activists, the litany of advice--wear sensible shoes, don't wear dangling earrings, stick together, resist the temptation to lash out--would have sounded pretty basic.
But to the 25 mostly neophytes who gathered Saturday at Pierce College to be trained to peacefully counter the efforts of Operation Rescue's anti-abortion squads later this week, the advice was welcome.
"It makes me feel better . . . that all the young people there will be better organized," said Zoe Treguboff, a Woodland Hills psychologist in her 60s.
"Most of us haven't done much demonstrating, and we're up against a pretty rough crowd," she said. "They talk as though they are gentle, but they behave in a pretty rough manner."
Operation Rescue is a group of anti-abortion demonstrators that has injected 1960s protest tactics into the nation's debate over a woman's right to have an abortion. Members have blockaded abortion clinics nationwide, and the group says more than 20,000 members have been arrested as a result.
Operation Rescue has said it plans to blockade clinics in the Los Angeles area Thursday through Saturday in defiance of a U.S. District Court injunction barring such actions, with as many as 2,000 volunteers from all over the country. A coalition that includes the American Civil Liberties Union, Planned Parenthood and the National Organization for Women hopes to have just as many activists try to keep clinics open.
Several of those at Saturday's training session at Pierce College said they were prompted to shed their lassitude and were spurred to action by Operation Rescue's tactics.
Among the recruits was Roz Mandelcorn, 46, a Studio City business systems analyst who said she had not participated in a demonstration for 20 years. "America is a country of choice, and I think it ought to remain that way," she said. "I'm really concerned about the conservative movement in this country."
The training volunteers received Saturday was partly common-sense and partly designed to make sure that pro-choice activities this week send a politically correct message.
They were told to wear red, white and blue--"to show that pro-choice is American." They were also told to dress comfortably, but neatly.
"We want to look middle-class," said Alexander Shapiro of Van Nuys, who represented the ACLU at the training session. "We're representing middle America even if they think they are."
The volunteers were also told not to talk to the anti-abortionists. "It's a waste of time," said P. J. Webb, who represented the San Fernando Valley chapter of NOW at the training session. "They want to divert your attention from your goal."
The goal, the training leaders said, is to keep the clinics open and to escort women who are seeking services at the clinics through what might well be a screaming, shouting, singing gantlet of Operation Rescue protesters.
Ruth Liberman, a spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood in Los Angeles, said publicity about Operation Rescue's aggressive tactics--which include brandishing posters of aborted fetuses and calling women seeking abortions "fornicators and witches"--is causing pro-choice activism to surge.
"We have not had this level of participation since the battle over Roe vs. Wade," said Liberman, referring to the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion. "Operation Rescue, in that sense, has been a . . . great mobilizing tool."
Liberman said more than 900 pro-choice volunteers have been trained since December. Organizers hope that hundreds more will be trained today during an afternoon "Celebration of Choice" rally at Cal State Long Beach.
The pro-choice groups' plan is to station groups of volunteers at clinics that are likely to be targeted, including the Planned Parenthood clinic in Sherman Oaks, before the anti-abortion demonstrators show up. The pro-choice groups' leaders believe that their presence at Los Angeles clinics Feb. 11, a warm-up for this week's demonstrations, caused Operation Rescue to switch targets at the last minute.
But an Operation Rescue spokesman denied that the presence of pro-choice volunteers had affected their decisions.
"If you look at other rescues that we've had in the state . . . even when there have been some pro-death people waiting at the different abortion mills, we have still gone and done what we intended to do," said Lawrence Schrank, director of Operation Rescue in Santa Clara County who is helping organize the Los Angeles demonstrations.
However, he said that if pro-choice volunteers outnumber Operation Rescue activists, then that resolve could crumble. "But, quite frankly, their resolve is not as deep as ours, and they don't have the numbers."
Should the Operation Rescue demonstrators try a sit-in, the pro-choice volunteers plan to link arms and form at least three lines as a human barricade to keep the clinic door open.
Training session leaders demonstrated the technique Saturday, as well as the common Operation Rescue tactic of attempting to crawl on the ground between the legs of those lined up in front of clinic doors.
The volunteers also learned how to escort a woman into the clinic. Despite the training, the pro-choice activists said they would leave if they saw that they were severely outnumbered.