On Saturday, August 6, 2022, NYC for Abortion Rights showed up to the Basilica of St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral for our monthly clinic defense. Over 100 people joined us to picket the church, which hosts the anti-abortion group Witness for Life.
The group’s leader, Fidelis Moscinski, is currently serving up to 90 days in jail for a clinic invasion he performed in White Plains in late 2021. Without their leader, Witness for Life members appeared disorganized. They were not able to coordinate an escort with the NYPD as they usually do, despite having obtained their usual permit blocking off two entire blocks on Mott Street. Instead, the clinic harassers trickled into their designated pen outside the Bleecker Street Planned Parenthood in pairs or small groups. Around 50 of them never even left the church—their presence at the clinic was substantially smaller than usual.
At the clinic, we were able to cover up the Witness for Life antis with our beautiful new rainbow umbrellas and banner. We successfully avoided blocking any access points to the clinic, escorted patients from the subway to real clinic escorts, and warned incoming patients about fake escort Bernadette Patel.
The NYPD & Private Church Security
The church was covered by dozens of NYPD officers on both sides. The NYPD’s Strategic Response Group (SRG) maintained an absurd presence outside the church’s adjacent Youth Center, in which self-proclaimed white nationalist groyper Max Bernegger hid for much of the action.
St Patrick’s Old Cathedral also considerably beefed up its own private security—half a dozen large men, some of whom sexually harassed people on our side and one of whom sprayed us with a hose (which we thoroughly enjoyed in the heat).
At the end of our action, on Mulberry Street, an independent photographer was targeted and brutally arrested by multiple SRG officers, who violently shoved him against the church gate. More SRG officers immediately created a perimeter around the arrest, preventing both protesters and NYCLU Protest Monitors from filming.
A group of us then stood in front of the SRG prisoner van in an attempt to prevent it from leaving. Protesters erupted in chants of “Freedom of the press!” and “FTP — Fuck the Police,” making it clear to bystanders and press the cops were arresting a photographer. The SRG moved in and brutally arrested four more protesters. Those remaining in front of the vehicle then decided to sit, still demanding the release of the photographer. When the van tried to exit Mulberry Street in reverse, they sprinted to sit at the back of the van. Eventually, the van left, taking the arrestees all the way to the 18th Precinct, where they were held for 8 hours.
NYPD Lieutenant Anthony Miolan (wannabe “good” cop) told jail support our people were initially going to be sent to the 17th precinct, but were rerouted due to Eric Adams having a press conference in that area. Remember when Eric Adams “led” a permitted abortion protest across a bridge for the Brooklyn Bridge back in June? Yeah, fuck Adams too.
Abolition of both prisons and police is a key tenet of reproductive justice. The actions of the NYPD at our action serves as yet another example of police support of anti-abortion rhetoric. We cannot work with the system that will oppress us and criminalize patients and providers. Policing tears communities and families apart, and cannot be tolerated within the reproductive justice movement.
A Note on Press at Our Actions
Our clinic defenses are more than spectacles to be consumed in the media. We are there to counterprotest known christofascists and white nationalists, who are absolutely looking to collect as much information on us as possible. On Saturday, a couple of photographers sold images that clearly showed the faces of our people being arrested, which made their way into outlets like Fox News and the NY Post. These photographers endangered activists, clinic escorts, and even a PATIENT. We are well aware that being photographed and filmed is part of the risk of showing up to actions, but this is still poor practice on the photographers’ part. They put individuals’ safety at risk and make ours and their work more dangerous in the future.
Some photographers think they are doing us a favor by “telling the world” or “raising awareness,” and perhaps they are, but what responsibility do they have to the subjects of their photos—their sources? We appreciate the publicity, but if a photographer puts patients, escorts, and activists at risk, they are not only threatening the very people they are trying to document, but they’re undermining their own commitment to objectivity by placing individuals under the lens of editors and columnists, many with their own interests in the debates surrounding abortion, freedom of speech, and policing.
We support freedom of the press from state repression (did we not try to block the arrest of the photographer targeted by the NYPD?) but that doesn’t mean we have to passively accept everything they do and be grateful for it.
Moreover, those who choose to livestream the event should make every attempt to avoid filming our faces. Livestreams, once ended, should not be publicly posted, as there have been incidents of far right “press” recording the streams, then posting our faces on their accounts to have their followers attempt to doxx and harass them.
Much love and respect for those who cover our events with respect for clinic defenders, clinic escorts, and patients.
The best defense is community defense. We are here to make anti-abortion bigots feel so unwelcome and uncomfortable everywhere they go that they have no choice but to become ashamed of what they stand for and stop their harassment.
We can’t stop, won’t stop, defending our clinics. Fuck cops. We fight for free and safe abortion forever.
—NYC for Abortion Rights