Brave woman, important work--Help protect her home
January 25, 2015 9:15 AM   Subscribe

Dear hivemind, A friend of mine bravely runs one of the only abortion clinics in Kansas now has anti-choicers picketing her home. Besides running sprinklers, what can we do to deter them and protect her, her home and her family from this? Thanks for any quick suggestions you can muster
posted by sb3 to Human Relations (45 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
How about arranging escorts for her and her family when they are leaving and returning?

Christmas carols to drown out yells?

Signs like I'm with stupid?

I think a lot depends on how many people you have available. Is there a local organization you can ask for advice? Is the local police force sympathetic to her and willing to enforce the law?

The most effective choice might be to simply take up a collection for a hotel. Let them picket an empty house.
posted by bq at 9:31 AM on January 25, 2015 [1 favorite]

What kind of neighborhood is she in - how close to the neighbors? Does she have sidewalks? An HOA to worry about? Busy street or quiet?
posted by dilettante at 9:32 AM on January 25, 2015 [2 favorites]

It wouldn't help keep her safe, but it might make her feel better: you can solicit pledges whereby people agree to donate a certain number of dollars to her clinic (or some other, related organization) for every protester who shows up at her house. Then you can thank the protesters sincerely for helping to provide funds to make sure that women have access to safe, legal abortions.

(This is what my neighbors did when the Westboro Baptist folks came to town, and it felt pretty satisfying. On the other hand, the Westboro people aren't as potentially dangerous as the anti-abortion protesters can be.)
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 9:40 AM on January 25, 2015 [81 favorites]

Seconding the sponsor-a-protester. Make a big deal of it; posters with goals and big dollar amounts. Very public website, with photographs of the protesters alongside the dollar amount they have "contributed".
posted by The Noble Goofy Elk at 9:45 AM on January 25, 2015 [30 favorites]

Just to make sure she's done this, she's spoken to the police/sheriff already? There's picketing, there's trespassing, and there's being a traffic nuisance. She shouldn't need to run her sprinklers - they shouldn't be on the lawn (and her sprinklers shouldn't be watering the street, though in this case if they happened to be doing that, gosh, what are you gonna do?).

I would think next steps would be to contact reproductive rights groups in the area and ask for a) general help, b) any expertise they have access to, including public relations. And yes - the suggestion to "sponsor" the protestors with donations is great, because the only way to make it stop is to stop showing up. If the PR team can get some big bloggers on board, it will be a real test of the protesters' perseverance.

Security cameras need to go up, so she can press charges against anyone who trespasses, does property damage, or attempts to hurt her.
posted by Lyn Never at 9:49 AM on January 25, 2015 [35 favorites]

Strike "in the area" - contact reproductive rights groups everywhere. This is important, Kansas is a big deal in overall abortion rights.
posted by Lyn Never at 9:52 AM on January 25, 2015 [25 favorites]

A friend's father once finally evicted trespassers off of his farmland by using a particularly stinky chemical. I don't remember what the chemical was, but maybe it's a good day to spread manure on the lawn?
posted by littlewater at 9:59 AM on January 25, 2015 [2 favorites]

Are fences a possibility? Please report back if your friend does do the "sponsor a protester" thing, I'd definitely donate.
posted by arnicae at 10:06 AM on January 25, 2015 [11 favorites]

Webcams facing the front yard and side walk clearly exposing the protesters. Put them online...Find out their ID's and link it all over the place. See if they can get a job later in life...
posted by Mac-Expert at 10:06 AM on January 25, 2015 [13 favorites]

Even more than security cameras, what about constant live-feed video that can be relayed? Yes, what Mac-Expert said. Though I think it is necessary to think through ways that might backfire.

I agree that looking into counter-WBC protest efforts might be inspiring.
posted by Miko at 10:09 AM on January 25, 2015

Mod note: Folks, this needs to not be a rallying place for donations. Memail is the way to handle that side of this conversation. Thanks.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 10:16 AM on January 25, 2015

A few more ideas:

To the extent possible, enlist the neighbors as allies (or at least neutral).

Get all of the cars' windows tinted (at the legal level, you don't want to be pulled over).

Put up obvious security cameras and record outside.

Purchase IP cameras for indoors and set them on motion alarm trigger when the family is out, that way she will have the peace of mind knowing that if anything happens she will get an email and text notification. I like Foscam, they can be controlled remotely (pan/tilt) and will capture still images whenever there is a motion alarm trigger. Point them at doors.

Get white noise generators and have them on all the time inside.

Purchase the translucent window shades that roll up and down and allow light penetration but you can't see through and leave them down at all times, in addition to typical curtains for when you'd like to block out light.

Also get some smart outlets (the Quirky Geniuses are some of our favorites) and program lights to turn on and off unexpectedly throughout the day to decrease those outside's ability to tell if the family is home or away. See if there is a way to come and go without being directly observed, and if you have a garage, do whatever you need to to be able to park your car in the garage. Place IP cameras in the garage as well.
posted by arnicae at 10:16 AM on January 25, 2015 [10 favorites]

Check your memail, I'd like to send your friend coffee and bagels at her office.
posted by arnicae at 10:18 AM on January 25, 2015 [2 favorites]

The Voice of Choice organization might offer some support. I'm not a fan of some of the tactics I've read about, such as cyber-stalking protesters and then calling them and casually dropping their addresses and children's names into the conversation, but it might be worth checking with them.
posted by bunderful at 10:19 AM on January 25, 2015 [4 favorites]

I would contact reproductive rights groups and ask what help they can give. My retired parents escort patients to and from Planned Parenthood when there are hostile protests; I think they are notified via a reproductive rights email group. This is for the patients' comfort and safety but also to send a message to the picketers: we are watching you and you can't intimidate us. They could also send folks to silently monitor the picketers and even to "patrol" her street so they can contact authorities if the picketers are doing anything out of line. But make sure they're not going to do anything to ramp up the conflicts-- it doesn't sound like she wants additional commotion.

Some groups may even have funds to help her with conspicuous cameras and motion lights, which are good ideas.
posted by kapers at 10:23 AM on January 25, 2015 [4 favorites]

I have somewhat combative impulses that may not be warranted here, but I lean toward responses that show that protestors are accountable for their activities and on notice. So, for instance, I can imagine keeping a log (or having volunteers keep a log) of all the license plate numbers and car descriptions of the protestors, taking photos of them and placing them in a secure archive online, etc.

I, too, encourage your friend to get in touch with some of the national reproductive-rights organizations. It strikes me that they may have resources, legal counsel, and consulting expertise on issues like this.
posted by Miko at 10:37 AM on January 25, 2015 [5 favorites]

Seconding the video cameras with motion alarm triggers; this was how my parents easily captured video footage of trespassers on their vacation property without having to save and wade through hours and hours of footage.

Long term solution, if it becomes absolutely necessary: in New Orleans, many homeowners on the main streets (where Mardi Gras and most other year-round partying take place) have high stone walls that are covered in broken glass and barbed wire. It's extreme (the use of colorful glass makes it less medieval) but that's how they keep intoxicated partiers off of their property. Again, extreme and long term (and expensive) solution, but I wanted to mention it.

I also keep wanting to suggest, as a few others have, the use of bad odors (manure isn't bad enough, in my opinion) and loud, obnoxious music and sounds, but this potentially cancels out the effectiveness when your friend and her family have to endure smelling and listening to these things, too. It would also depend on how much distance there is between her home and her neighbors' homes, as these aren't great ideas if you're just creating new disturbances for the neighbors, as well.

Does she have any tall, bulky, intimidating friends who can act as security guards/vigilantes?


Read that, because it outlines (nationally, not Kansas-specifically) what protesters can reasonably do. This may provide some ideas for what behavior to look for and document if she needs to file legal action. Again, she'll want to consult an actual lawyer for this.
posted by nightrecordings at 10:44 AM on January 25, 2015

Document the people showing up, license plates, times of day, etc. but I urge caution in setting up a live feed--in the protestors' communities they are lauded for their actions and your friend's house will only become a rallying point for more anti-choice rhetoric.

Sponsoring the protestors is a fantastic idea.
posted by corey flood at 10:58 AM on January 25, 2015 [2 favorites]

Oh, also she should tell her neighbors to feel free to contact police non-emergency lines with noise complaints, litter complaints, traffic complaints, etc. if the picketers are in fact causing these sorts of problems.
posted by kapers at 10:59 AM on January 25, 2015 [2 favorites]

I would treat any protesters who are willing to toe the line legally by showing up at her house as crazed stalkers only one or two steps removed from the guy who killed George Tiller. The idea of a "counter protest" fundraiser sounds nice but will raise her profile more and put her in even more danger. I would start with doubling down on personal and online security - removing her address from anywhere public (utilities, etc.) and anywhere on the web that she can, video surveillance and any other automated security suggestions above, getting the police as involved as they are willing to be. If it escalates, she should consider getting legal counsel and moving somewhere gated and covering her tracks as best she can.
posted by slow graffiti at 11:00 AM on January 25, 2015 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Thank you, everyone. And for the me mail messages. I've passed on the sponsoring protest idea which is great, as well as the legal and safety suggestions. For those who are curious, this is a Slate article about her and the clinic. George Tiller was her predecessor.

posted by sb3 at 11:05 AM on January 25, 2015 [5 favorites]

Move to an undisclosed location. These people are willing to kill.
posted by Jacqueline at 11:16 AM on January 25, 2015 [9 favorites]

This is a problem that has been addressed elsewhere. If she's not already in communication with the police and local authorities, she should be. I believe federal marshals have been involved in helping with clinic safety (since anti-choice assaults on clinics are domestic terrorism) and may be available for the implied threat that is picketing the home as well.
posted by c'mon sea legs at 11:40 AM on January 25, 2015 [7 favorites]

Lyn Never: "Just to make sure she's done this, she's spoken to the police/sheriff already? There's picketing, there's trespassing, and there's being a traffic nuisance."

Picketing private homes is almost always legally-actionable intimidation and not protected First Amendment speech. (This is not just a thing that happens with abortion rights, although most of the big lawsuits are about it; it also happens to elected officials and school superintendents and local mayors who cut police funding and lots of people who make controversial local decisions; many local government officials will be sympathetic to her because they may have in their own careers faced this kind of harassment.)

She needs to be speaking with an attorney and/or a national abortion rights organization to find out the law in Kansas. It is possible that phone calls between her lawyer and a legitimate pro-life organization's lawyers will clear out the organized picketer (leaving behind only the lone wolves); she may have a right to have law enforcement clear them out and ticket them; she may have to seek a specific injunction in court to forbid them from picketing her house.

Before she takes any other steps she needs to get in touch with lawyers who have some expertise in this area, because I find it difficult to believe that a picket so clearly aimed at intimidation -- not free speech -- falls within legal guidelines, especially when they are able to picket at more public locations (such as the clinic she works at).
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 11:42 AM on January 25, 2015 [46 favorites]

A few parametric speakers, perhaps combined with motion tracking could put the "voice of god" in the protester's head.
posted by Sophont at 11:52 AM on January 25, 2015

Seconding arnicae and eyebrows McGee. The suggestions to antagonize the protestors or engage with them are wrong, her focus needs to be on her safety and on aggressively prosecuting anything illegal they do via an attorney. I would imagine abortion rights organizations have very experienced attorneys but having a local one on the team wouldn't hurt.

Safety wise she needs to aggressively alarm and video her property, with good quality video and hiring a security consultant wouldn't be a bad idea. If t were me I'd look into the state requirements to carry a gun and or pepper spray
posted by fshgrl at 12:03 PM on January 25, 2015 [4 favorites]

The suggestions to antagonize the protestors or engage with them are wrong

They're certainly entertaining to think about, but I'm with fshgrl - they will make your friend even more of a target. I'd suggest protecting and securing rather than fighting back.
posted by stewiethegreat at 12:19 PM on January 25, 2015 [4 favorites]

...I'd look into the state requirements to carry a gun and or pepper spray

If these people are threatening violence against your friend - or entering her property in a way that would reasonably indicate that they intend harm - then it might be shootin' time.

Kansas is a 'shall-issue' state for concealed weapons permits, meaning that the police have to give her one if she asks for one, unless she's specifically forbidden from possessing guns.

As long as your friend is not a felon and is otherwise not prohibited from possessing firearms (domestic violence perpetrator, illegal alien, drug [including marijuana] user, dishonorably discharged from the military, etc...), she can get a gun and a concealed weapons license after a single 8-hour course and the expenditure of around six hundred dollars, most of which would go into buying the pistol, gear, and enough cheap ammunition to become proficient with it.

A two-way shootout on the front porch is of course, not an ideal solution to this problem, but it is certainly preferable to a one-way shootout.

If that's a bridge to far, my brief googling indicates that, like almost all states, Kansas places no restrictions on pepper spray.

Here is the Kansas Attorney General's page on concealed carry licenses and rules.
posted by Hatashran at 12:37 PM on January 25, 2015 [1 favorite]

As a shortcut to trustworthy law enforcement specific to Kansas, I'd get in touch with Rachel Maddow's producers. They've been right on this since before Tiller was killed, and could definitely steer you to the people who know who these yahoos are and how dangerous they might be. Best of luck.
posted by cookie-k at 12:52 PM on January 25, 2015 [8 favorites]

I strongly strongly advise against any kind of doxxing--it's gross when assholes do it, it's gross even when you're on the side of the angels (as you two obviously are!)

Contact the ACLU for legal advice, and Planned Parenthood for support. Security cameras around the house recording 24/7, just in case.

If she has children, however, it's time to move. Follow the usual advice given around here about scrubbing public data from view that's usually provided for stalking victims, and move now, as in pack bags right now get in car and go. Yes, bowing to intimidation sucks and is unjust, but anti-women activists are known to get murderously violent.

Kudos to your friend for her bravery.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 12:52 PM on January 25, 2015 [12 favorites]

If she is not moving house, she might look into some kind of security film for the windows, but even if she is, same goes for the new place...
posted by mimi at 1:01 PM on January 25, 2015 [3 favorites]

Especially if there are young people out there doing this, now might be a chance to talk with them and show them that not all of your supporters are monsters. This will only work if there is someone who is still un-enraged and un-afraid enough to do this with some warmth, and will require some outside-the-box thinking. Maybe don't talk about issues, just bring some doughnuts to them (maybe right before the police come to talk to them), or something.
posted by amtho at 1:24 PM on January 25, 2015

Move to an undisclosed location. These people are willing to kill.

There is no way the doctor running George Tiller's clinic is not painfully, mortally aware of this.

The police should be taking this seriously and providing safety escorts between home and school and home and work.

She should also know that there is zero chance she can't crowd-source the fuck out of private security. This woman is my hero and she can have all of the money bank account, right now.
posted by DarlingBri at 1:24 PM on January 25, 2015 [27 favorites]

1) God bless your friend.
2) This is probably too provocative for Kansas but in Germantown, Md., Leroy Carhart performs late-term abortions. Anti-choice activists graduated from protesting the clinic to harassing the landlord , Todd Stave. They protested at his grade school daughter's back to school night, called his in-laws, etc. Stave's friends asked what they could do to help so Stave formed Voice of Choice . His friends started returning the harassing phone calls, saying they would like to thank the protesters for their prayers but the family will not be terminating Dr. Carhart's lease. Occasionally, those returning the calls would dial it up a notch and ask how the protester's children were doing at their school and that they bless their home on their street. Some of the protesters received 5000 calls. That said, they weren't calling people who protested in front of the clinic, just the people who harassed doctors or patients.
Full disclosure: When Stave received an award from NARAL, the protesters responded by posting flyers all over his neighborhood with him dressed as a Nazi, pictures from the Holocaust and bloody fetuses, and contact info for other people in his family. One genius even started protesting his brother-in-law's dental office.
That said, if your friend wanted anyone to make some calls, I think that wouldn't be a problem.
posted by kat518 at 1:39 PM on January 25, 2015 [3 favorites]

Does she have any friends with large dogs who might be willing to bring them over?
posted by Perodicticus potto at 2:12 PM on January 25, 2015 [1 favorite]

Nthing security cameras. Signs declaring "you are on CC camera" and "trespassers will be prosecuted" also probably wouldn't go amiss.

Police and lawyers should also be involved if course.
posted by zennie at 3:33 PM on January 25, 2015

Can she use another residence? Just not go home for a week or two, nobody in the house? The protesters will realise the house is empty, and hopefully dissipate. Security for the now-empty house might be an issue, but if the security suggestions above, or similar, have been implemented that should be sufficient. Couple of weeks away, then go home and see what happens. Rinse and repeat as necessary.

This could be enhanced by using more than one 'safe house', or always using a different one. She would also have to watch for someone following her home as soon as the protestors realise what is going on.
posted by GeeEmm at 5:43 PM on January 25, 2015 [1 favorite]

Alarms and camera, stat. But she also needs major movement sensing lights in front and back of the house. Think klieg light. Knowing that you're in the glare of a light that will show everyone what an asshole you are makes a big difference in how much shit people are willing to pull at night. Apologize profusely to the neighbors beforehand, and suggest that they contact the police concerning the people disturbing the neighborhood.

Seconding police and lawyer up.

There's probably two or three ringleaders that need to have a cease and desist or some type of restraining order filed. (a lawyer can tell you what it would be)
posted by BlueHorse at 9:44 PM on January 25, 2015

She should contact Gavin de Becker & Associates for security.
posted by zdravo at 6:17 AM on January 26, 2015 [1 favorite]

Find out where they live and picket at their fence in similar fashion.
posted by Mac-Expert at 8:34 AM on January 26, 2015

nightrecordings: Long term solution, if it becomes absolutely necessary: in New Orleans, many homeowners on the main streets (where Mardi Gras and most other year-round partying take place) have high stone walls that are covered in broken glass and barbed wire. It's extreme (the use of colorful glass makes it less medieval) but that's how they keep intoxicated partiers off of their property. Again, extreme and long term (and expensive) solution, but I wanted to mention it.
There is also such a thing as non-drying paint, for the same reason - touch this fence and get it all over yourself. For obvious reasons, there may be civil statutes that restrict its usage, and it would be an awful thing to pu on the edge of a sidewalk, regardless - but with proper signage, and/or
along the top edge of a high fence, go for it!

MOST importantly: 24-hour external video. It's not expensive.
posted by IAmBroom at 2:05 PM on January 26, 2015

I strongly strongly advise against any kind of doxxing--it's gross when assholes do it, it's gross even when you're on the side of the angels (as you two obviously are!)

When people are protesting at your house and are affiliated with a terrorist organization it's not doxxing to make sure you know who they are.
posted by winna at 5:40 PM on January 26, 2015 [5 favorites]

I agree and was coming back to say something similar. As distasteful as many find it to doxx someone on the internet that they don't like, that's really not the same thing as creating a record of real events in real space and time, impacting your property and safety, for your own use and protection.

In fact, I think the furore over internet "doxxing" has made people very unclear about what has historically been allowed and in fact recommended in real life situations where your physical presence is having an impact. Establishing the identity of someone posing a threat to you is not wrong. We don't have the right of anonymity when we choose to appear bodily in public places.

A list of license plates/people who have been seen in the vicinity of the house could become extremely useful if there were ever a need for an investigation.
posted by Miko at 6:35 PM on January 26, 2015 [2 favorites]

I was referring to the suggestion upthread about publishing such info, wasn't saying that gathering evidence was bad.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:01 PM on January 26, 2015

Even that wouldn't qualify as "doxxing" because, legally, there's no reasonable expectation of privacy if you protest in public space. Just to clarify that point.
posted by Miko at 8:31 PM on January 26, 2015 [3 favorites]

« Older I want the easiest-reading, most engrossing...   |   What would you expect to see in a book like this? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.