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Calm Prevails as Week of Abortion Protest Starts

August 09, 1994| From Associated Press

GULFPORT, Miss. — Abortion doctor Joseph Booker, wearing a military helmet and slumped in the back seat of a car, was greeted only by supporters Monday as he arrived at a clinic targeted by abortion opponents.

About 20 abortion rights backers and a number of police stood watch as Booker's car, driven by officers, disappeared behind a six-foot fence that surrounds the Gulf Coast Women's Clinic.

Signs posted near the clinic read: "Abortion is America's holocaust," and "It's not a choice, it's a life." But no abortion opponents were in sight until about an hour later, when four sign-carrying demonstrators set up on the street.

Organizers of the "No Place to Hide" demonstrations planned throughout the week in Jackson and Gulfport said abortion opponents would attempt to talk with women visiting the clinic. Booker practices at clinics in both cities and is believed to be the only doctor in the state who performs abortions.

"We've got a couple of dozen on their way down" to Gulfport, said Roy McMillan, a Jackson anti-abortion activist who invited protesters to Mississippi. "They will join a couple of dozen people already down there."

McMillan and another organizer, Joseph Foreman of Missionaries to the Pre-born in Milwaukee, both acknowledged signing a petition that says it is justifiable to kill doctors who perform abortions. But both said this week's protests would be nonviolent.

Foreman said he later withdrew his name from the document, which was circulated shortly after Dr. David Gunn was murdered outside a clinic in Pensacola, Fla., in March, 1993.

It's the same petition signed by Paul J. Hill, a former minister charged with murdering Dr. John Bayard Britton and his escort outside another Pensacola clinic last month.

The escort, James H. Barrett, was buried Monday with military honors at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia, on the eve of what would have been his 75th birthday.

The Rev. Paul Johnson, a Unitarian Universalist minister and friend, said: "I think of Jim caring for and protecting others and speaking his mind freely and clearly. His final act was in the service of others. We have been enriched to have known him."

Among the 100 mourners were others who escort abortion patients through protesters, along with Barrett's widow, who was with him when he was slain, two sons and daughter.

Meanwhile, in Florida, priests were warned to be careful and dress inconspicuously after a caller threatened to kill 20 clergymen in retaliation for the slayings of Britton and Barrett.

The anonymous caller contacted a Roman Catholic Church on Thursday in Miami, and the threat was passed to the FBI, police said. A church spokeswoman said it was hoped that the threat was a one-time crank call.

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