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Hardened Summer of Mercy/Summer of Choice protesters dig in outside Carhart’s Md. clinic

There was only a five-minute window, between when the black cloud broke and the pilot and photographer could fly over Germantown, Md., on Sunday afternoon to photograph several hundred red-shirt-wearing anti-abortion rights protesters holding up red paper signs with the message “PRAYER FOR THE PROTECTION OF LIFE.”

“People, people, people, get your signs up! Here he is!,” yelled Christian Defense Coalition director Rev. Patrick Mahoney into his bullhorn, pointing to the plane. A half-hour earlier, he had prayed on his knees: “God, as we prayed that you parted the waters, we pray you would part the clouds.”

The Summer of Mercy 2.0 protesters whooped, raised their signs face up as the plane circled. Shady Grove Presbyterian Church pastor Charlie Baile, who dreamed up and organized this human “red cross for life,” smiled into the sky, just before the cloud broke and the red shirts ran for cover in the direction of late-term abortion provider Dr. LeRoy Carhart’s clinic.

Watch a video clip of the plane flying over:

Image has not been found. URL: http://images.americanindependent.com/pat-mahoney-leading-prayer.jpgChristian Defense Coalition director Rev. Patrick Mahoney leading the Summer of Mercy 2.0 protesters in prayer, Aug. 7, 2011 (AMERICAN INDEPENDENT/Sofia Resnick)

The night before Sunday’s human cross, the Summer of Mercy 2.0 leaders and participants gathered at Covenant Life Church in Gaithersburg, Md., where Mahoney told the approximately 200 people in attendance that the abortion-rights counter-protesters were copycats: They created their Summer Celebration of Choice in response to Summer of Mercy 2.0; they held a fundraising walk on the same day Summer of Mercy had a walk.

“I’d really like to see how they are going to emulate a cross,” Mahoney said.

Image has not been found. URL: http://images.americanindependent.com/forming-cross.jpgSummer of Mercy 2.0 protesters forming a human cross outside of Dr. LeRoy Carhart’s abortion clinic in Germantown, Md., Aug. 7, 2011 (AMERICAN INDEPENDENT/Sofia Resnick)

The Summer of Choice protesters did not form a human cross on Sunday. They did, however, organize an “inter-faith prayer circle,” presided over by a universalist minister.

“We’re not going to let them go unopposed,” said Michelle Kinsey Bruns, an activist who became a volunteer for Carhart when she learned about the Summer of Mercy. “It’s been really great. So many people have come out to [protest] this intrusion into their community.”

Kinsey Bruns told The American Independent that over the course of nine days, the women’s rights groups counter-protesting in Germantown recruited many community members and passersby.

On the other side of the street, the message coming from Mahoney’s podium was similar.

“For the past nine days, no children have been killed,” Mahoney told the Summer of Mercy supporters. “[There will be] imprint of the cross in front of this place that diminishes human life.”

He said their numbers have been growing, and he is confident that eventually Carhart’s clinic will close.

Image has not been found. URL: http://images.americanindependent.com/Summer-Choice-We-love-carhart.jpgSummer Celebration of Choice, Aug. 7, 2011 (AMERICAN INDEPENDENT/Sofia Resnick)

Where the sidewalk ends

Protesters from both camps told The American Independent they were trained not to engage with “the other side.” Occasionally a few abortion-rights protesters wearing lime-green vests or pink Planned Parenthood shirts would walk over to the anti- side and be stared down back to their edge of the sidewalk. On Sunday, a middle-aged Summer of Mercy supporter walked down to crowd of about 70 Summer of Choice-ers. She was made aware her presence was unwelcome, and as she walked away, a Montgomery County police officer told her to stay on her group’s designated corner.

Summer of Mercy leaders often avoided directly condemning those at the other side of the sidewalk, but portrayed them as misguided supporters of a murderer. Many on the Summer of Choice side described the messages coming from the Summer of Mercy camp as hateful.

“When you use words like murder to describe a safe, medical, common procedure … it is incendiary,” Kinsey Bruns told TAI.

“There’s no point in arguing with them,” said Sherly Giglio, a Summer of Mercy supporter, who stood on the edge of the sidewalk on Wisteria Drive, wearing a red T-shirt and waiting for the plane to fly overhead. Her husband, Peter Giglio, agreed, explaining that each side is arguing about different things.

“Abortion is not primarily a religious issue,” he said. “It’s a life and death issue.”

While both sides of the street recognize that unplanned pregnancies are at the center of the abortion debate, many of them can’t even get past this aspect. The anti-abortion rights position represented by many of the speakers and supporters at this year’s Summer of Mercy is that abortion at any stage in a woman’s pregnancy is murder. Though some on both sides see pregnancy prevention as a potential middle ground.

Image has not been found. URL: http://images.americanindependent.com/Mercy-Choice-mixing.jpgA Summer Celebration of Choice counter-protester standing on the Summer of Mercy 2.0 side of Wisteria Drive outside of Dr. LeRoy Carhart’s clinic in Germantown, Md. (AMERICAN INDEPENDENT/Sofia Resnick)

“They can support access to commercial birth control … for people who are having sex, which is all people,” Kinsey Bruns said, of the anti-abortion rights advocates.

The Giglios agreed that they would support a movement advocating for pregnancy prevention, but this was not a topic brought up by the religious leaders at Summer of Mercy. Potential solutions for unplanned pregnancies that were discussed included adoption or seeking out help from so-called “crisis pregnancy centers,” such as the one run by the Maryland Coalition for Life, located 100 feet from Carhart’s clinic.

Image has not been found. URL: http://images.americanindependent.com/fetus.jpgDan S., standing on the Summer Celebration of Choice side of Wisteria Drive in Germantown, Md. (AMERICAN INDEPENDENT/Sofia Resnick)

The night before Sunday’s human red cross, Covenant Life Church senior pastor Joshua Harris boiled down the cause of abortion to a culture opposed to suffering.

“Our culture wants to have sex with no responsibility and no accountability,” Harris said. “[Abortion] is not the cool issue in evangelism, necessarily,” he continued, pointing out that poverty, disease and sex-trafficking were issues most Christians are united against. “Are we willing to suffer derision in our culture over this?”

“Yes,” came the response from the pews.

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