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13 anti-abortion protesters arrested

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

DENVER —  Thirteen anti-abortion activists, including Operation Rescue founder Randall Terry, were arrested Tuesday during an orchestrated demonstration in which they blocked a security gate near the site of the Democratic National Convention.

Terry shouted "Don't vote for Obama" as he was led to waiting sheriff's van, his hands held together with blue plastic handcuffs. The arrested, including a 78-year-old priest in a black cassock, stood waiting in single file to get into the vans, each accompanied by two police officers. About 50 officers dressed in riot gear stood guard and processed the protesters while people, some with passes to get into the convention, walked by.

At about the same time at the other end of downtown, about a dozen anti-abortion demonstrators rallied outside the Sheraton Hotel, where House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Sen. Hillary Clinton were speaking at a luncheon sponsored by Emily's List, a group that supports women candidates. One demonstrator held a poster with graphic images and said, "Barack Obama change this."

Earlier Tuesday, a group of about 50 anti-abortion activists unfurled a huge sign on a mesa west of Denver equating the Democratic National Convention with abortion, but later hiked back up to remove it at the request of authorities. County officials haven't decided whether to issue any citations. The sign was displayed for about three hours and group president Steve Curtis said the letters were visible from west Denver about 10 miles away.

Before the convention, Terry met with Denver police and then publicly announced he planned to be arrested.

When Terry and about three dozen protesters arrived at a designated corner, a dozen police were waiting on the opposite corner. Prostesters began to recite the rosary.

Terry then announced the plan. He told the group they were going to walk down the block to the DNC gate, sit down in the street and pray. He said the police would warn protesters three times that they would be arrested. Anyone who wanted to leave should do so after the third warning, he said.

He told the few children in the group to remain standing to the side, holding signs.

"You'll be part of a legal protest that may someday be covered in the history books," he said.

When the protesters first gathered at the gate, people with convention passes were able squeeze behind them to get through. When protesters sat down in the street, Terry asked an aide for the "red phone," a cell phone he used to call police. He could be heard saying "Lieutenant, we're here at the gate."

Then some of the protesters moved closer to the gate, blocking it. Secret Service officers shut it and directed convention-goers to another gate. Protesters sang a Catholic hymn, "Salve Regina." They said one Hail Mary for the police officers before a lieutenant approached them. Reading from a card, he cited the city ordinance they were violating and warned them they would have to leave or be arrested.


Associated Press writers Mary Hudetz and Chakhan Thomas contributed to this report.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.



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