There used to be an American TV drama series called Naked City, each episode of which always ended with an announcer intoning on “voice over,” “There are a million stories in the Naked City…This has been one of them.”
Well, Operation Rescue has a lot of interesting stories, most, if not all of which never make the eleven o’clock news on TV, or the columns of the commercial press.
Women’s Day on Harbord Street
For example, on March 11, in the course of Toronto’s sixth Op-R, there was the incident of a lady (let us call her Alicia) well-known to local activists and an experienced “footsoldier” on Harbord Street. Warm-hearted and affectionate (she is of a Latin background), she is committed to the struggle for the emancipation of the unborn for “the duration,” as is her husband.
Well, Alicia had the misfortune to be among a group of rescuers who were assaulted by Morgentaler’s Mafiosi in front of The Way Inn, and in the scuffling, was knocked over and fell to her knees (so much for their much-vaunted concern for the welfare of women – or were they still celebrating International Women’s Day?). At that moment, a cop, moving in to “sort things out,” smashed her in the face, breaking her glasses in two. In her charity, she believes the blow was…inadvertent.
Inadvertent or not, she was promptly arrested, went limp, and was carried to the big white auxiliary police van, where she arrived with blood on her face, some gashes on her left cheek, and clutching one-half of her glasses. She was very distraught, to say the least, and concerned about the glasses, since they were prescription lenses. On arrival at 14 Division, she was not booked, but sent to the Western Hospital for treatment. Later in the day, she returned to 14 Division to meet her husband on his release, and was in excellent spirits. Oh yes, she also got the other half of her glasses back; some rescuer had picked it up and brought it to 14 Division. The lesson of this story is (a) rescuers are not cream puffs; and (b) do not wear glasses on a rescue; they can get broken, and you may suffer serious injury to your eyes.
To serve and protect
Then there was the rescuer who was carried to the paddy wagon and had his fingers bent back, as though the cop wanted to break them. This was to induce him to stand on his feet and get into the paddy wagon voluntarily.
“Are you going to stand up? Are you going to stand up?”, the cop shouted angrily as he applied painful pressure to this brother’s fingers.
“How could I stand up?”, he asked. “The other cop has my feet up in the air!”
How many people are aware that 14 Division was faced with not one, but two, threatened “sit-ins” by rescuers standing in solidarity with individuals singled out for more treatment than their fellow prisoners?
Many if not most of the arrested rescuers were taken to 14 Division where they were confined in the Guard Room. About mid-afternoon a rescuer was thrust into the Guard Room who promptly informed us that there was a young man from Op-R who was being charged with assaulting a police officer. Making inquiries with the cop on the door, we got a number of conflicting stories. At first we were told that he had “slugged a sergeant”; then we were told that his case had nothing to do with Op-R or the situation in Harbord Street. Our original rescuer-informant assured us that he was definitely “one of ours” (this reporter was later told that the “incident” involved knocking a cop’s hat off his head). Now, it must be remembered that it is very easy (too easy) for a cop to lay charges of “assault,” even if it bears little or no relation to reality.
At this point, the police were attempting to begin releasing people, in groups of four, who had been arrested prior to 9:00 a.m., and they were, to say the least, a little annoyed to be told by our spokesman that about half of the forty or fifty people in the Guard Room would refuse to be released if this young man was not also released.
There was some considerable coming and going among the police, and eventually a smiling cop came in to announce that the fortunate young man had had the charge of assault reduced to that laid against the rest of us: “creating a disturbance by impeding,” that would be dropped, and that he, too, would be released…I was edified by the esprit de corps of these rescuers, most of whom were young people, arrested for the first time in their lives. They demonstrated a spirit of solidarity, “as to the manner born.”
The second threatened “sit-in” occurred late the same afternoon, when Pastor Ken Campbell was about to be released. The police, in their wisdom, decided to make his release conditional; i.e. he would be released on condition that he promise not to return to the Morgentaler killing field. This is ironic, because Pastor Campbell is president of Choose Life Canada, whose national headquarters is at 78 Harbord Street, right next door! Well, Pastor Campbell pointed out that when Henry Morgentaler was released on bail a few years ago while facing charges over his illegal abortion business, no conditions were placed on him. He resumed his criminal activities with impunity, and, indeed, with police protection to boot. With that in mind, Pastor Campbell made it clear that he would not consent to any conditions being placed on his release, and it looked as though he would be held until he could be brought before a magistrate.
Well, when word of this outrage got back to the Guard Room, about thirty of the rescuers announced that they would not consent to being released if Pastor Campbell was not released, unconditionally. In the end, the police backed off and all were subsequently released. Two threatened “sit-ins” by rescuers standing in solidarity in one single day; surely “a first” for 14 Division, don’t you think?
The lion thrown to the Christians
One young man from “the other side” was arrested that day (surely by mistake?!) and, as Providence would have it, he was brought to 14 Division. Thrust into the Guard Room, he was at first a little disconcerted to find himself in a den of “born-again bigots.” Would we give him a hard time? Would we chew him out?
What he found himself in was a room virtually throbbing with the joy and love of brothers and sisters united in a holy cause. He was accepted quite casually and without ceremony as a fellow “guest” of the Toronto Police Department, and made to feel at home among us. Soon he was smiling and chatting easily with the young lady sitting next to him at the long table. “How can you call us racist?” she asked, more in puzzlement than in anger.
However, he did have to endure a great many prayers, scripture readings, hymns and personal testimonies; if this was “punishment,” then it was also poetic justice. At one point, he smilingly joined hands with us for a special prayer. He was lavished with such unaffected, easy-going fraternal charity that he surely cannot seriously believe that we are the ogres his friends teach him to hate. Here was one of “them” who had an unusual and unexpected experience in the course of Operation Rescue; may God prosper the seeds of love that were planted that day.
There are many, many more stories in Operation Rescue, and these are only a few of them…