A protest at a women’s clinic that provides surgical abortions in Mt. Juliet ended with nine people arrested and a handful of minors facing juvenile charges.
Mt. Juliet Police Capt. Tyler Chandler said the incident started as a peaceful assembly in front of the Providence Medical Pavilion on Friday morning. He noted individuals and groups have assembled in front of the building since the opening of Carafem, a women’s medical facility that originally provided medication abortions and expanded its services to surgical abortions in Mt. Juliet a few years ago.
“Since this facility opened, people have been allowed to peacefully protest here and have done so. This event was the first time that they have actually went inside the building and refused to leave,” Mt. Juliet Police Chief James Hambrick said. “Our aim was not to arrest. We had good dialogue. We’re just glad everything went as peaceful and orderly as it did.”
Chandler said the group consisted of about 22 people, including minors, who entered the facility, sat down and refused to leave.
He said officers arrived shortly after that and asked the group to leave. Some group members did leave at that time. The remaining 13 — nine adults and four children — were peacefully removed from the facility, according to Chandler.
“Our officers gave multiple warnings for them to leave so they would not be charged with a criminal offense. They refused to leave and they were all taken into custody,” he said.
The nine adults face trespassing charges, while the four children, who are in their early teens, according to Chandler, are charged with trespassing and issued juvenile citations for a future court date.
Chandler said four of the adults were also charged with contributing to the delinquency of a minor.
“Christians peacefully blocked that door and saved babies’ lives. That’s what this is. We are here in support of them. We are here to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ,” said Coleman Boyd, of Bolton, Miss., who was a part of the group, but not arrested. “Those people this morning didn’t deserve to be arrested. They went to that door to interpose on behalf of those babies, so those babies wouldn’t be taken in there and killed today.”
Boyd said the incident was not a protest, but a “life-saving rescue attempt.”
The private building has other offices that perform many medical services.
“We have a duty to respond and a duty to protect those people (patients and employees) that are inside,” Chandler said.
Chandler said the group also handed out pamphlets with the words, “Police arrested peaceful, obedient Christians!”
“It appears this group showed up today with the intent on being arrested by our department,” said Chandler.
The group said no injuries resulted from the incident.
Carafem COO Melissa Grant called the protestors “a group of anti-abortion extremists,” and called the incident unconscionable, harassment and illegal.
“No one should be blocked from getting health care or be intimidated when they seek to enter a small business of any kind. No one should experience intrusion or harassment,” Grant said. “The tactics used by the anti-abortion extremists right here in Nashville and across the country are intended to shame, frighten, and prevent people from obtaining the legal goods and services that they want and need.”
Grant said the business had no plans to cease operation in Mt. Juliet.
Those facing criminal trespassing charges include: Caroline Davis, 22, Eva Edl, 85, Chester Gallagher, 71, Dennis Green, 54, Heather Idoni, 56, Paul Place, 22, Calvin Zastrow, 60, Eva Zastrow, 22 and James Zastrow, 24.
In 2019, Mt. Juliet agreed to pay $225,000 to settle a lawsuit that was filed after the city approved an ordinance aimed at women’s clinics that provide surgical abortions.
The city commission agreed to accept the ruling handed down by U.S. District Judge Eli Richardson, who ordered the city to pay the court fees to the American Civil Liberties Union, ACLU of Tennessee and Willkie Farr and Gallagher, who filed the lawsuit in 2019.
The parties filed the lawsuit on behalf of Carafem after commissioners approved — and later appealed — an ordinance that restricted surgical abortions to industrial zones, and originally included language that banned them within 1,000 feet of churches, schools and other facilities.