“You must stand ready, because the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect” (Luke 12:40).

Indeed, the “hour you do not expect” was nearly fulfilled for three pro-life picketers standing at the back of Morgentaler’s abortuary at 85 Harbord Street, Toronto.  The three are Marcian Cotter, Sam Dieleman (a boy of 11) and myself.

At 12:15 on Monday, July 29, the three of us protesting the abortions that had been performed that morning when a woman, toting a rifle, appeared on a balcony adjoining the abortuary.  She screamed at us, “I’ll blow your heads off” and “I have two more guns up here.”  A police constable who witnessed this whole scene immediately summoned a colleague and, via the staircase at the front of the building, made for the room to which the woman had now retired.  These two constables were later joined by a police investigator.

Upon recovering my composure after this life-threatening experience, the thought crossed my mind that the police might try to sweep this whole gun incident under the rug.  After all, the police are maintaining an around-the-clock surveillance to protect Morgentaler’s illegal establishment on Harbord Street.  They must conceal this prostitution of the police force from the general public.

I went to the front of the building to ensure that the police confiscated the rifle and arrested the woman.  My suspicions about the police were confirmed about 15 minutes later when the three police officers exited the building without the rifle or the woman.  As far as they were concerned, the gun incident had ended right where it began – at the illegal enclave on Harbord Street.

It was the timely and astute challenge presented by George Orsini, a leader of the picketers, that forced the police to act.  George told them that he would publish photos of the gun incident and “go public” if they failed to act, especially since a constable had witnessed the gun incident. The investigator, in a threatening manner, asked the constable whether he had indeed witnessed the incident.  Fortunately, the constable concerned was the one who has the courage to admit that he doesn’t have the courage to lay down his badge (see my letter on civil disobedience in this issue).

The constable confirmed that he had seen the incident and the three officers went back into the building.  A few minutes later they came out with the confiscated rifle and the arrested woman.  (By the way, what about the other two guns the woman claimed she had?).

If it hadn’t been for this timely challenge, there would have been no news coverage of the incident and those operating the illegal abortuary on Harbord Street would have won one more round, not only in trampling on the right to life, but also in trampling on the public’s right to information on matters of public concern.

Toronto Abortionist charged with assault

Police served Toronto abortionist Robert Scott with a summons on July 31.  He appeared in court August 22 to set a trial date for two counts of assault, arising from an attack on two pro-life picketers in front of the Toronto Morgentaler abortuary at 85 Harbord Street on June 28, 1985.

Picketers arrested

Three days after the gun incident reported above, on August 1, three picketers including myself were arrested at the Morgentaler’s abortuary.

Several of us customarily gather at about noon at the rear of the abortuary to protest the abortions that have been performed in the morning.  On this particular day the protest was no different from other days, except for two people who joined the group for the first time.  One of them as a diabetic man in his 70s who speaks broken English; the other was an emotionally disturbed young woman from out of town who was making her second appearance on the picket line.

Why did the police see fit to arrest me with two newcomers to the protest group, newcomers who had spoken much more softly than other protestors who were not arrested? The answer is simple.  The police wanted to arrest – a “ring leader” – with two people who would make a bad appearance before the media.  The police hoped this would convey to the public the impression that, in Morgentaler’s terminology, only a few “fanatics” are picketing the “clinic.”

Incidentally, the three of us were taken separately to Toronto Metropolitan Police Station 14.  The old man’s requests for sugar water were denied for so long that he dropped to his knees out of weakness in the police station.  Even then, the police treated his fall as pretense, only later was he given food and water.  All this illustrated how low our police force has fallen by protecting illegal activities.