The Sexist

Anti-Abortion Activist Gets Arrested, Attention

Back in front of the cameras, Mahoney recites both his cell phone number and the Christian Defense Coalition's land line to reporters. He again compares himself to civil rights activists fighting segregation. He fields questions from the crowd. And he lays out the plan for the coming photo-op: "We're just going to have one or two people walk onto the sidewalk so that we’re not blocking anything," Mahoney instructs his supporters. "If they are going to arrest, I’d submit that you weigh the cost first . . . I hope they won’t keep you overnight, but you never know how quickly they'll release you." People interested in praying, he adds, should have a valid photo ID on their person in case of arrest.

Protesting Planned Parenthoods Fence

After administering his instructions for praying on Planned Parenthood's grass, Mahoney concedes the floor to a selection of people who have knelt on the lawn over the years. Missy Smith stands in front of the group and claims that sidewalk counseling at the clinic has “saved 300 babies,” along with countless women. “I’m just so proud of anybody today who stands up for God and country and gets arrested," she says. Retta takes his turn in front of the cameras in order to remind onlookers that Planned Parenthood employees "kill people. That’s what they do for a living." Harry Valentine of the Capitol Hill Prayer Alert, in a baseball cap emblazoned with an eagle and a flag, announces that "what were’ standing for here is the Constitution!”

Protesting Planned Parenthoods Fence

Also on hand: Carol Anderson of the American Life League, who has arrived toting a sign reading "Mary, Please Stop Planned Parenthood." This is a rare weekday protest for Anderson; she generally comes to the clinic on Saturdays,"When the slaughter happens. When the walls are covered in blood and women’s thighs are dripping with it," she explains. Anderson says she doesn't engage in civil disobedience, but she's still happy to lend her support to the cause. “That police officer just told me not to bless him!” she announces at one point. “I hadn’t even blessed him yet and he told me not to bless him!”

Protesting Planned Parenthoods Fence

The event gets back on track when Inspector Burton returns with the word from higher-ups. “Somebody needs to record what the commander says to me,” Mahoney informs his supporters. Burton tells him that the District of Columbia considers the area private property, and that Planned Parenthood would prefer Mahoney not protest on their grounds. "We know they don’t want us to do this. Business owners didn’t want people of color to sit at their lunch counters!" Mahoney responds. He turns back to the crowd. “Whoever gave me this mike, you should take it now—if I get arrested, you might not get it back!”

But before he prays, Mahoney must pray. “I know some of you might get emotional seeing your First Amendment rights trampled," Mahoney says. "Let us pray.” Mahoney bows his head and places his hand on his Bible. He begins to pray for all the “children who are brutally murdered and women who are diminished” by abortion. He prays that all the employees of Planned Parenthood will be moved by the power of God to stop the massacre. Soon, Mahoney's head is lifted. His Bible is clenched in the air. He is praying directly to the cameras. He pauses. It's now 35 minutes past Mahoney's initially planned prayer time. But once he's whisked away to jail, he's lost his audience. "Now, if there are no more questions," he finishes, "I'm going to go pray."

Protesting Planned Parenthoods Fence

Mahoney turns to enter the lawn. A line of three police officers are blocking the entrance. “Are you saying I can’t even go in there?” Mahoney asks them. They step aside. The Reverend finds a spot near the center of the walkway, kneels down, and opens his Bible.

No one joins him. Most of his supporters are content to observe him through extended viewfinders. A pair of representatives from, Peter Shinn and Rachel Sargent, capture the event on video camera and wired microphone, respectively. Only Anderson takes a knee, albeit outside the fence. Eventually, Sargent crawls into the fenced area and extends her microphone as close as she can to Mahoney.

Finally, he is arrested. Burton removes his hat. Mahoney stands on his own. Police lead him outside the fence, where he surrenders his Bible to a supporter and returns the microphone to the reporter. He is handcuffed. The crowd of press and supporters snakes down the sidewalk after him, snapping away until Mahoney's head is ducked into the back seat of the police car. "I got some sweet photos!” Whittington says as the crowd pushes him back. Sargent sticks her arm through an open window of the cab. Shinn shoves the video camera in, too. “Excuse me, please keep your hands outside the car,” a police officer tells the pair. "Do not reach inside a police car."

Protesting Planned Parenthoods Fence

Shinn's video camera lingers inside the car to ask one more question of Mahoney: "Any last words?"

Photos by Darrow Montgomery.

  • kza

    It must be nice to have time on your hands to pull stunts like these.

  • Jenny

    Who wants to go "lead a prayer circle" on Reverend Pat Mahoney's front lawn?

  • Jessica

    What a bunch of whiny jerks.

  • Phira

    Oh noes, I'm SO SORRY that it's now harder for you to harass women. BOO HOO.


  • Native JD in DC

    Club them, don't arrest them. You teach conservatives to respect Constitutional rights through corporal punishment. It's their favorite.

  • Elise

    My thoughts exactly. Also, his elaborate prayers remind me of those of the pharisees Jesus condemned. Sounds like showboating his "faith" to get media attention, popularity, and to oppress his fellow humans. Yep. Sounds like a good, loving christian to me.

  • squirrely girl

    Seriously already. When will these loonies realize that the women seeking reproductive care have a few rights too. I deserve to get my birth control pills without being called a murderer.

  • Katie

    @squirrely girl: birth control is just a mini-abortion, didn't you know that?

    I escort at a PP clinic and it's the same load of shit here. The public sidewalk is literally 5 feet from our private entrance and so the protestors unfortunately have free access to harrass the patients. Showboat faith is a HUGE part of their shtick as well. It's one thing to stand out on the curb and pray silently. It's another to show up in monk regalia carrying a four-foot statue of Mary, throwing flowers on the ground and putting up a huge-ass cross in a baby crib on the street divider. Yeah...that happens.

  • MissaA

    “As I just informed the Commander, this is just as much a disgrace as the ‘White-Only’ signs put up during the civil rights movement,”

    No, no, no. No. It's really not.


  • Katie

    OH and I forgot about the delicious combination of faux-Christianity and personal insults we so often experience at the the time a male protestor waddled over to my fellow escort and whispered "you look like crap today." my favorite of the ten commandments, personally: "thou shalt insult thine brothers and sisters, and tell them when thou thinks they look particularly crappy."

  • Wagatwe

    Yeah...I love when White Christian men compare harassing women with racism and legal segregation. I mean, of all people to understand... he totally knows what he's talking about.

  • Jess

    Everybody knows the Constitution guarantees your right to do whatever you want, wherever you want, even on other people's property, and nobody can stop you! Right? That's in the Constitution, right?

  • Katie

    @Jess: well, sort of. Unless you're Muslim or Mexican, obvs

  • LeftSidePositive

    Have I missed the section of the first amendment where you get to trespass on private property and harass people?

    And no, hypocritical insufferable "Christian" grandstander, being arrested and/or kicked out of a place of business for your thuggish, revolting behavior that is threatening other customers and directly attempting to prevent the business from providing its services IS NOT THE SAME as potential paying customers peacefully seeking to patronize a business being turned away for who they ARE, not what they DO.

  • LeftSidePositive

    Jess, this is required reading:

    "Area Man Passionate Defender of What He Imagines Constitution to Be",2849/

  • Katie

    @LSP: Yes! I loved that article! Good fit here.

  • SJL

    This has to be my favorite quote:

    “You don’t really have enough time to talk to them that way,” says Dick Retta, an anti-abortion activist who is familiar with the disputed terrain. “Outside the fence, you’ve only got maybe three to four seconds.”

    As if these protesters have a right to the PP clients' attention. There's nothing in the Bible or the Constitution that says anyone has to give a random stranger their attention for any length of time.

  • KiaJD

    This is so ridic. They're not complaining that it's illegal, really. They're just looking for ANY legal justification because they're pissed they can't pray right next to the door! They say so plain as day. SOOOOO RIDIC!

  • Melissa

    Seriously? He's gonna go with "having to pray outside of a fence instead of right on someone else' property is as bad as Jim Crow?" Really?

  • Amadi

    So this guy trespassed on clinic property. Unless I'm illiterate, which I'm pretty sure I'm not, that could get him dinged on federal charges of violating the FACE act. Where are the federal prosecutions of these self-righteous, misogynistic, pharisaical moonbats? Our justice department is no longer filled with graduates of that fifth tier "law" school Pat Robertson runs, so why isn't action being taken?

  • Em

    I love this conversation. The fundamentalist christians I know (a lot, I used to be one, please don't judge) feel exactly the way that's been discussed: THEY have rights and priviledges, and because they have the "greater good" (i.e. God) on their side, their rights and privileges are more important than some woman trying to get an abortion, obviously. It's that kind of self-importance that made me laugh throughout this article even though it's infuriating because it is sooooo ridiculous.

    The part of me that still believes in God feels like he turns off his ears for those kind of sick, showboating prayers. Prayer is never meant to be used as a weapon or good PR, biblically. It's an intimate moment of faith, that God will take the correct action. But self-righteousness makes everything warped, so they'll probably never understand that. They justify it by making everyone that doesn't fit their particular faith justifications less than human, and subject to whatever grief they want to give.

    And yes, you have a right to pray. But your right to pray doesn't trump trespassing laws, idiot. Ick.

  • Danielle

    Thanks for the coverage Amanda. Abortion rights supporters were there too.

  • Janis

    Who is that guard? I want him to arrest me... like later tonight at HIS place.

  • @ClinicEscort

    Thanks so much for this. Almost as good as being there and watching Mahoney get cuffed in person.

    This self-same jackass was one of the ones who thought he had a right to "pray" on private property at Dr. Tiller's clinic less than three weeks after the doctor was murdered last year, too. Then as now, apparently it is a requirement for effective prayer that you be on someone else's land with the media alerted ahead of time so they can show up with their cameras? It really didn't work out for him that way last June, sadly, so I hope he savored his 40 minutes of glory yesterday.

    And I hope the handcuffs pinched.

  • The Evil One

    I used to escort women at a DC clinic for a short time.

    Every time we'd get a woman safely in, I'd turn to those imbeciles and say, "See, the devil is stronger than your 'god', we just killed another baby."

    They would go apoplectic, telling me how I'll burn in hell, etc. To which I would respond, "Oh, I think I'll be just fine. He promised me that after I die he'll make me young all over again so I can have his baby."

    You see, the funny thing about those fundies is that they have no sense of humor whatsoever. It's just too easy to irk them.

  • MissaA


    Where are the federal prosecutions of these self-righteous, misogynistic, pharisaical moonbats?

    There's always the danger of turning them into martyrs. This guy planned to be arrested for just that reason. Reading the article, I kept hoping that someone would find an ingenious way of denying him his arrest without undermining enforcement of trespassing laws.

  • Joey Pants

    Religion SUCKS. Made up by primitive people thousands of years ago. It's a way of controlling the masses, and a way for the sheeple to deal with life. Wake up, life is scary- try and handle it without believing in ghosts and spirits....

  • anon

    I know, it's shocking that others do not share our similar worldviews. Mental diversity is indeed disturbing. Perhaps they'll devise a drug that will enable us all to think as one and get on the same page?

  • kza

    What a brave new world that would be.

  • Jeannette

    god, this makes me feel ill. especially the part where the "protesters" (aka terrorists?) focus on the fact that the fence will prevent them from being able to effectively proselytize and/or shame the clients of the clinic. do they not know that planned parenthood provides MORE than just abortion services?? do they not understand that they have NO RIGHT WHATSOEVER to harass people who aren't even breaking any laws?? ugh, and comparing their assholery to the Civil Rights sit-ins?? *puke*

  • Kristina

    Actually, religion can be very useful to people psychologically, socially, and in various other ways. People who use their "religious beliefs" to persecute others in a terrorizing manner suck, not the religion they are touting as backing their beliefs. Let's not group all of Christianity in with this ass hat.

    That said, he is, indeed, an ass hat. Saying that a god is supportive of these vindictive and terrible acts when that same god is, by the majority of the Christian faiths, believed to be forgiving and righteous is just foolish.

  • Erik Whittington

    I love these comments! Great stuff. But again, lets get right back on point. Is the property inside the fence public or private. It was discovered I believe in the year 2000 that it was public, not private. That is why myself and many others have stood on the public property INSIDE the current fence since then praying, counseling, holding signs, etc., etc. There has been no transfer of land from Washington, DC to Planned Parenthood. Just because someone puts up a fence and a sign that reads, "Private Property" doesn't make it so. So what is it, private or public? If it is public then wouldn't you support my free speech rights to be there? There is a few feet of public property in front of my house that I would fight for YOUR free speech rights to stand there and voice your opinion about me. Would you do the same for me? Prob not but maybe you'll surprise me :)

  • Katie

    @Erik: Planned Parenthood obtained the right from the city to build the fence, correct? So, actually, having a sign that says "private property" DOES make it so. And in any case, let's not pretend this is a free speech issue. This is about seeing that you get as close as possible as you can to PP's patients to intimidate and harrass them because you KNOW you can do more damage (and I don't mean change their minds, I mean make them scared/embarrassed/nervous/angry) when you are in their faces. Counseling is asked for. What you people do is not counseling.

  • Amadi

    Erik Whittington asks "If it is public then wouldn’t you support my free speech rights to be there?"

    Because your "free speech" is harassing, dishonest and insulting, and whatever right you have to make it doesn't obligate anyone else to have to listen to it.

    If you want to pray, you can be heard by God from anywhere, you don't need to be on that sidewalk. An omnipotent and omniscient God is perfectly capable of understanding who you're praying for even if you aren't.

    Moreover, as a Christian, you should know that Jesus had some fairly pointed words about people who pray loudly out on the streets in order to make a public show of their righteousness. He wasn't in favor. Why do you disregard the words of Christ this way?

    Also what you do isn't counseling. You yell emotionally-loaded barbs at women when they walk past you. Often those things are demonstrably false, or false enough to be meaningless. That isn't counseling, and you know it. If you have such a strong regard for the mental health of women, you'd go to school, get your credentials and hang out a shingle as a licensed counselor. You'd know that generally speaking, women are not aided, emotionally or otherwise, by men yelling at them as they walk down the streets, whether they're yelling about how good we look or how wrong we are to "kill" our "babies." Your alleged concern about the wellbeing of women is a lie, and as a Christian, I'd refer you to Rev. 21:8 and advise that you get that dishonesty problem of yours under control.

  • Kristina

    To add to what Amadi and Katie said, one of the biggest rules of counseling is nonjudgement. As a counselor, one is not there to judge but to listen and empathize and guide. This version of "counseling" judges, speaks over the "client", and does nothing close to empathizing.

  • Brennan

    Prayer should not be a stunt. It should not require reporters nor cameras nor coordination between police and media. If it requires any of those things, you are doing it wrong.

    That is all.

    (except for the undying RAGE)

  • Keith B

    Is this the same guy who is sometimes waving a bible around in front of the SCOTUS with a pack of taped-mouth cronies? I thought he was annoying there, this is just awful.

  • squirrely girl

    So are there degrees or licensing processes for "sidewalk counseling?" No? Then they're just a bunch of protesters.

    Also, counselors are bound by ethics that include confidentiality. I can't imagine how one establishes or maintains confidentiality in front of a bunch of protesters outside of a building.

  • Tim

    This is not public space the same way that a public park or other public land is. The city retains the right of imminent domain for the easement, but the public doesn't have right of standing. This is the same as the city having right of imminent domain over the front of your yard (for sidewalk, for sewers, etc.) but you don't have the right to camp permanently on your neighbor's front lawn.

    The school next to the clinic is on the same property line and also has a fence. Can opponents of charter schools camp right outside the door to tell the teachers and students they should be going to public schools? Several of the buildings on 16th have roundabouts for drop-offs or deliveries. Can I claim this as 'public space' and park my car there? Of course not. PPMW has the right to determine who enters this easement; Rev Mahoney doesn't.

    In less-than-startling-news, Pat Mahoney prayed in front of TV cameras