Police arrested four men today who were protesting outside of an abortion clinic and attempting to speak with family members.
In a Facebook Live video posted by the Charlotte-based anti-abortion group Love Life, a man can be heard saying, “Hey guys, we’re in Greensboro right now. We were in Charlotte earlier this morning. And we got a report that in Greensboro, the police have pushed against people being out here to pray, even though we’re doing social distancing. So, we just came up here because they basically they ran off the prayer walkers. They ran off the sidewalk counselors. And the abortion center remains open.”
Three minutes later, the video shows an encounter with two Greensboro police officers outside of A Woman’s Choice, the abortion clinic, on Randleman Road.
“I’m gonna tell you now: You need to return to your vehicles,” Lt. DW Knott says. “You’ve got a choice now to make. You can choose to comply with what I’m telling you, or you’re going to be charged…. Right now, I am giving you a command to leave this location.”
“We must obey the rule of God, and not of man,” an unidentified protester responds.
After Knott asks him if he’s going to comply, another protester responds that he is going to stay where he is “pursuant” to the Guilford County stay-at-home order.
“Sir, let me have your ID, please,” Knott says, “and I want you to sit on the curb.”
Another protester says, “I don’t mean any disrespect.”
A second officer says, “Well, y’all are disrespecting us by doing this.”
Sitting on the curb, one of the protesters says, “You want to do this. I don’t want to do this. You desire this. You are the one pushing this. I’m saying, ‘Let’s talk about it.’ I’m saying, ‘At least talk to your city council about it, and your lawyer.’ You don’t want to do that.”
One of the men who was arrested is Justin Reeder, the founder of Love Life USA, according a press release issued by the NC Values Coalition, a Christian right organization based in Charlotte. The 34-year-old Reeder, who is a resident of Huntersville, has been charged with violating the stay-at-home order and resisting, delaying and obstructing a public officer.
Also arrested and charged with violating the stay-at-home order were Jason Oesterreich, 42, of Locust; Carl Ubinas, 52, of Mooresville; and Isaiah Burner, 23, of Statesville. Oesterreich and Ubinas were also charged with resisting, delaying and obstructive a public officer.
Ron Glenn, the public information officer for the Greensboro Police Department, said that any person who is outside of their home and is not covered by an exception in the order, such as essential work activity or essential travel, can be found in violation of the order. He added that violating the stay-at-home order is a Class 2 misdemeanor.
Glenn said these are the first arrests made by Greensboro police for violating the stay-at-home order. He could not identify the other two men who were arrested.
The NC Values Coalition condemned the arrests.
“The North Carolina Values condemns the actions of Greensboro police for arresting Christians who peacefully and legally pray and exercise their religious rights on sidewalk,” said Jim Quick, the state director of grassroots and media. “Not even in communist China would police arrest three men for walking and praying on the street. Even during a fight against a virus, Americans have constitutional rights to pray and exercise religious freedoms.”
A months long investigation by TCB from October found that Love Life, along with other local crisis pregnancy centers, repeatedly gather at the local abortion clinic, the only one in Greensboro, to protest. Crisis pregnancy centers are typically faith-based organizations whose sole goal is to dissuade people from getting abortions, often by protesting right next to clinics and using false-advertising tactics.
Protesters with Love Life — a religious organization that works to mobilize churches in Greensboro, Raleigh, Charlotte and New York City — gather at A Woman’s Choice every weekend and often times on weekdays to oppose abortion. While many protesters attempt to hand out pamphlets to patients as they drive into the parking lot, other, more belligerent protesters use microphones to speak or shout directly at patients as they walk through the doors.
Love Life, whose protesters usually wear teal shirts, congregate at the clinic in large numbers throughout the year, especially during their “40 Days for Life” events in which close to 100 people gather to pray and sing next to the clinic.
To ensure that patients are able to access the clinic safely, the clinic has its own volunteers, also known as escorts, who help shield the patients from the protesters and walk them from their cars to the clinic.
“You just have to be extremely vigilant,” said one volunteer during TCB‘s October investigation.
To read TCB’s investigation on what abortion access looks like in Greensboro click here.
Sayaka Matsuoka contributed to this story.
This story originally stated that three men were arrested. It has been updated to reflect the accurate number.