Wednesday, May 22, 2013
PORTLAND — As a steady stream of people walked past him into Planned Parenthood to make donations Friday morning, Daniel Emma of Scarborough stood on a step stool and told them their money would fund murders. "You know it is wrong to murder," he said. "Listen to your conscience."
Mark McCain, center, of Portland, was one of many who donated cash to Planned Parenthood in Portland Friday morning. Planned Parenthood staff member Eric Covey, right, thanks them for their contributions and support.
Gordon Chibroski / Staff Photographer
Anti-abortion demonstrators protest with graphic signs outside the Planned Parenthood of New England agency on Congress Street in Portland.
Gordon Chibroski / Staff Photographer
It was the only interaction of the morning between anti-abortion protesters and a "cash mob" of supporters of the reproductive health services provided by Planned Parenthood.
Protests in front of the clinic on Congress Street began about six weeks ago and intensified on Oct. 5, when police were called. Planned Parenthood now pays an off-duty police officer to patrol the area during protests.
Four police officers were stationed outside the clinic Friday morning. Before the demonstrations began, Sgt. Danny Hutchins asked both sides to avoid confrontations and keep the sidewalks clear, which they did.
As the cash mob made its way into the building, protesters faced traffic on Congress Street, holding signs and singing hymns.
Mike Miles, the city's director of human resources, organized the cash mob -- in which people flock to a business to support it through purchases or donations -- in response to the abortion opponents who line the sidewalk in front of Planned Parenthood each Friday, when abortions are offered at the clinic.
The protesters recite prayers, tell women they have alternatives to abortion and hold signs -- some of them graphic -- that show images of fetuses.
"I was walking down the street a few weeks ago and I saw the protesters with their pictures of fetuses lining the sidewalk and talking to people going through. It just seemed to me to be kind of ugly," Miles said.
About 50 people participated in the cash mob, slightly more than half the number who responded to a Facebook event page saying they would. They donated just over $2,200.
Miles and his wife, Grace Cleaves, said they were pleased with the turnout. "We're excited so many people are showing up for us and Planned Parenthood," Cleaves said.
The number of abortion opponents outside the clinic Friday reached nearly 25, the most since the demonstrations began, said Donna Hebert, a protester from Waterboro. She said many came for the first time. The group included teenagers and Hebert's six children, who range in age from 7 to 18.
"We try to be available to girls going in to get an abortion because we want them to know there are other choices," Hebert said. "My children know this is murder. It is wrong and they want to stand up for it."
Katie Knights, 17, of Raymond, participated in the protest for the first time Friday.
"I want to fight against abortion. I don't think it's right," she said. "I think this is one way to get people's attention."
On the other side, Sarah Franklin of Portland said she hoped her donation to Planned Parenthood would draw attention to the rights of women and the reproductive health services the organization offers.
Holding a sign that read "Healthy mothers equals healthy babies," she said the anti-abortion protesters use manipulative methods in their demonstrations.
"The blood of women who died in back alleys when abortion was illegal, they don't show that," she said.
Dara Saffer of South Portland attended the event with three of her four children. She wouldn't have her children if it weren't for the health services she received from Planned Parenthood years ago, she said.
"I think it's important to teach my kids to stand up for what we believe in," she said.
Eric Covey, a Planned Parenthood employee, collected donations from the cash mob and said the money will directly support services for patients.
"Your support is so immensely appreciated," he said. "Thank you for coming and standing with us."
Megan Hannan, director of public affairs for Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, said there have been no confrontations between protesters and the clinic's patients or staff since the off-duty police officer was hired.
Staff Writer Gillian Graham can be contacted at 791-6315 or at: