Protesters ended a week of demonstrations Saturday aimed at making Atlanta the nation's first abortion-free city with 40 more of their ranks hauled to jail and their leader vowing that the group will return.
"We started this to save some children," said Randall Terry, head of the New York-based Operation Rescue anti-abortion organization. "We wanted to put the whole issue of killing babies back into the public arena. We have accomplished this, and I am pleased.""We will be back," declared the Binghamton, N.Y., car dealer, who previously said Atlanta was picked by the group because of the strength of existing anti-abortion support.
Terry promised Saturday's protest would be the last in the series at a clinic but said he planned more demonstration at city jails, where nearly 400 protesters have yet to be released.
Terry charged the city is deliberately slowing the release process to keep protesters from participating in further demonstrations.
Police arrested the anti-abortionists Saturday, the fifth straight day of protests, for blocking the entrances to the Midtown Hospital and pleading with abortion patients seeking to keep their appointments to reconsider.
Police arrested 422 demonstrators engaging in similar tactics between Tuesday and Friday to add to the more than 800 arrests made during similar protests at Atlanta clinics between the mid-July Democratic National Convention and Sept. 3.
There was no violence Saturday and authorities used restraint in handling the protesters, who complained previously of rough police tactics.
"We will be pleased to see them go," said Atlanta Public Safety Director George Napper," observing Saturday's protest. "We need to get our peace officers back to doing more important things."
Napper estimated the cost to the city in jail services, extra police protection and court costs at between $500,000 and $1 million.
On Friday, anti-abortion demonstrations netted 53 arrests, 11 Thursday, 14 Wednesday and 343 Tuesday, the most violent day of activity, when police twisted arms, carried protesters to police vans by the jaw and used nerve pinches to make arrests. Terry was hauled to jail Monday, the sole arrest of the day.
The protesters were charged with failure to obey a police officer, simple assault, battery, unlawful assembly and giving a false name.
Police, threatened with a brutality suit Thursday, were noticeably more restrained in their treatment of the protesters Friday and Saturday than they were during the previous days of demonstrations.