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Cops Put On Their Kid Gloves

On the morning of the biggest anti- abortion demonstration in Phoenix history, the prayerful, placard-bearing, demon-eyed enemies of abortion weren't the real story.

The real story was the complacent, glad-handing, slow-footed Phoenix police, who milled among the lawbreakers as though they'd stumbled into a party.

This came as a huge surprise to Dr. Brian Finkel, director of the Metro Phoenix Women's Center. It was to Finkel's gynecological clinic on West Maryland that more than 500 Project Rescue picketers made their hysterical pilgrimage on January 21.

They came with the same old props--posters, Bibles, hymns, enough different chants to found an offshoot of Buddhism--and some new ones in the forms of bicycle locks and chains. A few of the more enterprising protesters chained themselves together at the neck and barricaded the clinic's doors, impassive as the Rockies.

Even the chains didn't startle Finkel. It's hard to imagine that any act committed by an anti-abortionist could stun one of the most hardened soldiers in the Arizona pro-choice war. He thinks he knows their kind through and through and, given the slightest excuse, he is prepared to describe their collective unconscious for you. "They are angry individuals who cannot vent their anger. . . . Most of them are unhappy with themselves," he says. "They have to find a cause they can give themselves to. They say, `Look at all those people, they are murdering babies. Aren't they monsters?'"

Not even violence startled him. As the tension-filled day wound on, demonstrators invaded Finkel's clinic and shoved him against a wall, injuring two fingers on his left hand before the police intervened. The hand is still taped, and Finkel wears the tape as proudly as though it were the result of heroism in battle.

Finkel cannot, however, get over his surprise at the actions of the Phoenix Police Department.

Who could?
Who could explain that the boys in blue were seen in the clinic parking lot shaking hands and socializing with Arizona's most notorious pro-life leader, attorney John J. Jakubczyk, just prior to inviting him to leave rather than be arrested?

Jakubczyk, a vice president of Arizona Right to Life, has such a history for criminal trespass and harassment of abortion facilities that the A to Z Women's Center has had an injunction sworn out against him. He is so committed to the cause that his name has shown up in connection with more than one offbeat lawsuit, including one that's pending against Finkel, wherein Jakubczyk represents a woman who may sue for the doctor's refusal to return her fetal remains to her. In 1985, Jakubczyk helped Joseph Scheidler, national leader of the Pro-Life Action League, orchestrate a countrywide pressure campaign against abortion facilities. (The movement caused so much consternation to clinics that it picked up the nickname "The Year of Pain and Fear.") Finkel, of course, is well aware of Jakubczyk and was pointing him out spiritedly to the officers, asking that the barrister be arrested for tramping onto private property. He figured that Jakubczyk's legal advice and encouragement were helping whip the demonstrators into their frenzy. In meetings held with clinic leaders before the demonstration took place, the police had told Finkel to point out the protesters he wanted arrested, so Finkel pointed with a lot of confidence. But the police refused to follow through. Spokesman Andy Anderson of the police department says this was because the police were authorized only to haul away the folks who blocked the doors, not just anybody Finkel fingered who was wandering around in the parking lot. The parking lot, even though it's posted as private property, is an area shared with other businesses, and Finkel could lawfully command jurisdiction only over his clinic's immediate access, says Anderson.

And as for handshaking and jawboning with Jakubczyk, Anderson thinks that might have been just an outgrowth of his police officers' naturally outgoing personalities. "I know that our supervisors have tried to meet with both sides and maintain cordial relationships with both sides, and it would not surprise me to see our officers shaking hands with both sides," he says.

I hope that the officers' profession of friendship for Jakubczyk didn't hurt Finkel's feelings. He and the police had met twice prior to the demonstration and Finkel felt, perhaps presumptuously, that he and they were acquainted. And yet none of the officers engaged in chitchat with him or shook his hand that day.

The only thing that happened to Finkel's hand was somebody sprained it.
This is not to say that, in the past, the police had never held meaningful conversations with Arizona's pro-choice advocates. Gloria Feldt, the executive director of Planned Parenthood of Central and Northern Arizona, remembers some pretty startling exchanges as early as 1987, when local abortion clinics were gearing up for protests they expected as outgrowths of the Pope's visit. When their anticipated need for protection was expressed to the police, an officer suggested to Feldt that if she closed for the day, the entire situation could be avoided. There seemed to be no understanding that acquiescing to the pro-life minions would set a terrible precedent for Planned Parenthood. No understanding that Planned Parenthood has every right to offer its scheduled services to the public, regardless of its enemies' activities. No understanding that the role of the police is to maintain the peace when citizens collide, not to request an organization change its ways so that law enforcement officials may avoid a confrontation. Over in the office of the chief of police, these understandings have not been evolving since 1987, either. Spokesman Anderson admits that the police have mentioned in the past that abortion clinics could sidestep demonstrations by closing their doors on days they know demonstrations will occur. "I think that in any brainstorming session you should be able to kick around any idea," he says in defense of the suggestion. "The decision was up to the clinics."