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Speak-Out in Los Angeles

On Saturday, June 6th, 80 people gathered at a busy corner on the outdoor Santa Monica Promenade to “Speak Your Rage” to honor Dr. George Tiller and to resolve to keep abortion doctors safe. It was initiated by World Can’t Wait-LA, Libros Revolucion bookstore and the Revolution Club-LA, and quickly gathered endorsements from several NOW chapters, a student group, representatives from Planned Parenthood Pasadena and the Women’s Reproductive Rights Assistance Project, and UCLA Law Professor Frances Olsen, an international feminist legal scholar.

Rev. Ignacio Castueras, National Chaplain of Planned Parenthood

For almost two hours, in front of an attentive crowd, a variety of people stepped forward to speak, from students to long-time veterans in the struggle for a woman’s right to choose. There were 20 speakers, including Planned Parenthood’s National Chaplain Rev. Ignacio Castuera (who travelled two hours each way to participate) and 3 NOW chapter presidents, one of whom is also a West Hollywood councilmember. An attorney read the powerful statement that lawyer Gloria Allred sent from Wichita (see below).

Carol Downer, co-founder of the Feminist Women's Health Centers

Carol Downer who co-founded the Feminist Women’s Health Centers is organizing women to publicly tell their stories, as part of creating an atmosphere in society where women feel no shame for having abortions. People brought to life how Dr. Tiller bravely and compassionately saved the lives of women, and even young girls, who came to his clinic when there was no else who would or could help. A number of defiant young women (as well as men) spoke, including a high school student who came with her mom; a student from the Feminist Alliance of Santa Monica College; a young religious Black woman who decided at the end to speak and directed her story about having two abortions at the anti-abortionists standing around; 2 volunteers from Libros Revolucion who spoke to the dangerous “common ground” that Obama is calling for; and 3 members of the Revolution Club-LA shared the mike and told about the controversy in a class of pregnant teen-aged moms who had never seen anything like the photo display “A Fetus is Not a Child” from Revolution newspaper. Several anti-war groups were represented including Veterans for Peace and the Topanga Peace Alliance.

high school student

A large banner titled “In Memory of Dr. George Tiller” was signed by 30 people in English & Spanish, and contains moving messages of tremendous appreciation for this true hero. A black paper armband was taped on the banner, accompanied by the message, “Thank you, Dr. Tiller, thank you Tiller family for being an important part of our struggle for a better world. Many of us at Whittier College wore armbands honoring your memory!” 20 passersby who are interested in getting involved signed up. Many people thanked us for initiating this, and expressed interest in continuing to work together.

Photo display “A Fetus is Not a Child” from Revolution newspaper

There were a few christian fascists with their gory fetus posters who hung around the entire time, showing photos they took of the speakers to the cops. The one woman with them captured an essence of their reactionary ideology when she said, “If you want to know what I think, listen to what my husband says.” After the speak-out, there was a march through the Promenade which created quite a stir when we debated (well, shouted down is more like it) the anti-abortionists who had set up with a microphone in one of the many little “performance” areas. Some of the passersby got on the mic to challenge them, but the open mic ended when we approached. The responses from these christian fascists included illogical and grotesque anti-woman and anti-gay comments, and one young “hip” guy spit on a young woman marcher who challenged his ignorance. A woman who had worked with Dr. Tiller, like a number of people we met, told us how grateful she was that finally there were people who were taking on the “anti’s”. The speak-out and march are just the beginning of what’s needed to build a powerful movement of resistance that will not back down in the face of the murder of the courageous Dr. George Tiller.

Statement from Gloria Allred read at the Speakout in Memorial of Dr. George Tiller in Santa Monica, CA on June 6, 2009

Last week a true American hero was assassinated in Wichita . He was targeted and then murdered by a terrorist because he dared to help women whose life or health was seriously endangered and who needed a late term abortion. That hero's name was Dr. George Tiller. Yesterday I visited his clinic and spent many hours there talking with his staff and listening to them and feeling his presence everywhere. I saw the countless letters from grateful patients from all over the world whose lives he had saved. I saw in every detail the sensitivity to his patients' needs. Every day he risked his own life for them so that he could save their lives. The bombing of his clinic didn't stop him, the bullets shot into his arms did not deter him, the relentless and unsuccessful prosecutions ending in his acquittal did not diminish his commitment to the women whose lives and health were in his hands. He was one of the bravest men who has ever walked this earth and we are so grateful to him for his courage. Last night I spoke to a large group who came to a speakout about this tragedy. Today I attended his funeral and served as part of his "martyr guard" outside of the church where his funeral was held. There has been fear and anger about this murder especially because Dr. Tiller's clinic is only one of two in the world providing late term abortions. We hope that it will reopen soon. I came to Kansas to urge everyone to become more empowered and to redouble our efforts to keep abortion safe, legal and accessible. The terrorists can kill the body of Dr. Tiller, but they cannot kill his spirit. More people than ever now support our legal rights to have an abortion and because of his murder will now be committed to joining us in asserting and protecting these rights. I thank you for coming to Santa Monica today to honor Dr. Tiller. Stand up for our rights and the brave doctors who help us to assert them. Now more than ever we need your activism to protect our clinics and our rights and as Susan B. Anthony said "Failure is impossible.”