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Schiavo Family Urges Protesters to Stay Calm

By Manuel Roig-Franzia
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, March 28, 2005; Page A03

PINELLAS PARK, Fla., March 27 -- Sparks of anger briefly altered the mostly peaceful atmosphere of demonstrations outside Terri Schiavo's hospice on Easter Sunday, as a small group of protesters grew increasingly frustrated that the legal fight to keep the brain-damaged woman alive has ended.

The arrest of two demonstrators who tried to cross police lines to deliver a glass of water to Schiavo prompted more pleas for calm from her family members, who had earlier asked demonstrators to leave. Schiavo's brother, Bobby Schindler, waded through a thick ring of journalists to urge demonstrators to avoid confronting police.

Suzanne Vitadamo, center, sister of Terri Schiavo, hugs a protester outside the Woodside Hospice in Pinellas Park, Fla. (Scott Audette -- Reuters)

_____From Florida_____
Video: The Post's Manuel Roig-Franzia on the latest in the Terri Schiavo story.
_____Outlook Discussion_____
Live, 11 a.m. ET: Jeffrey Rosen, George Washington U. law professor and legal editor of "New Republic," discusses his Sunday Outlook article, "It's the Law, Not the Judge."
Key Legal Arguments
_____From FindLaw_____
Terri Schiavo Legal Case
_____Latest Coverage_____
Schiavo Parents 'Dealing With Reality' (Associated Press, Mar 28, 2005)
Fla. High Court Rejects Schindlers' Appeal (The Washington Post, Mar 27, 2005)

"We're not going to solve this problem today by getting arrested," he told several of the most vocal protesters.

Schindler listened for several minutes as protesters, including a man who said he was affiliated with a group called the "Demonstrably Non-counterfeit Roman Catholic Protection Network," demanded that more legal action be taken to reinsert Schiavo's feeding tube -- even though state and federal courts have rejected attempts to have the tube reinserted.

Finally, Schindler shook his head and quietly said: "You're not speaking for our family by doing this."

Minutes later, though, another group, Not Dead Yet, which advocates for disabled rights, blocked one of the two entrances to the hospice that police have tried to keep clear. Half a dozen group members, all of whom have disabilities, slipped out of their wheelchairs and lay on the asphalt on a humid Florida afternoon, singing songs. Police watched from a few feet away, but made no move to stop the civil disobedience, which ended about an hour later when most of the camera crews and reporters had drifted away.

The confrontations between demonstrators and police, who wrestled one protester to the ground to subdue him, were unusual given the mostly placid scene outside the hospice for the past week. Nearly 40 people have been arrested since Schiavo's feeding tube was removed March 18, but most went quietly after making symbolic attempts to deliver food and water or administer the sacrament of Holy Communion. A priest administered last rites to Schiavo and gave her a drop of communion wine Sunday.

"There's been a lot more aggressive chatter today," said Capt. Sanfield Forseth, of the Pinellas Park Police Department. "This thing is being beamed out around the world. . . . People who are intent on causing trouble have plenty of time to get here."

Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R), who failed to convince the courts that he has authority to take custody of Schiavo, was lampooned by sign-waving demonstrators throughout the day. "Gov. Bush, we are waiting. Where are you?" one sign read.

Bush, appearing on CNN, said he felt sad for Schiavo's parents; they lost a court case against her husband, Michael Schiavo, who has said his wife would not have wanted to live in a vegetative state. But the governor stressed: "I cannot violate a court order."

Bush's legal interpretation has done little to pacify some demonstrators, who continued Sunday to call on the governor and his brother, President Bush, to take dramatic action to keep Terri Schiavo alive.

Amid all the commotion, a trickle of men and women in their Sunday finest moved through the crowd and waited to be escorted inside to see family members who have nothing to do with the Schiavo case. Almost all carried gifts: bright little Easter baskets.

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