Police arrested up to 200 pro-life activists Saturday in the biggest test so far of a court order barring pro-life groups from obstructing access to clinics in Massachusetts.
The protest organized by the pro-life group Operation Rescue targeted three clinics where abortions are performed in Brookline, a suburb of Boston. One clinic, Repro Associates, closed.Fifty Brookline police officers were initially dispatched to the three clinics early Saturday, said Police Lt. Daniel O'Leary. Later, all of the officers moved to one of the three, Repro Associates, when police determined it was the demonstration's focus.
About 500 people, both for and against abortion, blocked one side of Brookline Avenue for about two hours. Police called in a mechanic to extricate one protester who used a bike lock to attach himself to the underside of a bus.
Pro-choice activists said police were to blame for the clinic shutdown because they failed to respond quickly enough.
"This clinic has been closed down. People can't go to work, go in for an appointment," said Ellen Convisser, president of the Massachusetts chapter of the National Organization for Women. "The police let the community of Brookline down."
In past Operation Rescue demonstrations, pro-choice volunteers have lined the entrances to clinics and escorted patients inside. But Convisser said NOW changed its strategy Saturday and relied on police to enforce the year-old injunction.
"Our job today is to see that the police do their jobs," she said outside the Repro clinic.