Vigil for Slain Abortion Provider Is Held in Dupont Circle

By Garance Franke-Ruta
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, June 1, 2009 12:02 PM

Staffers from progressive nonprofit groups and women's rights organizations gathered in Dupont Circle last night to mourn abortion provider George Tiller and protest his killing at a Lutheran church in Kansas.

Organized via Twitter, Facebook and text message (not to mention word of mouth), similar vigils were organized across the nation, including in Old Town Square in Wichita, Kan.; South Park in Lawrence, Kan.; Warner Ranch Park in Los Angeles; and the Clock Tower in Santa Cruz, Calif.

In the District, union organizer Tanya Tarr sent out the late-afternoon call by Twitter, putting her nervous energy to work in the wake of the slaying and outing herself as tweeter Nerdette (2,047 followers) in the process.

"I felt really upset," the 29-year-old said, "and I have been able to haphazardly build a network."

Her call to gather pinged around the blogosphere, Facebook and Twitter to bring 80 to 100 people together at the Dupont Circle fountain by 9:10 p.m. A larger vigil, with formal representation from women's groups, is planned for tonight from 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. in front of the White House.

The Rev. Mark Thompson of Washington's Israel Baptist Church delivered brief remarks last night to the crowd of people, who held Hanukkah candles -- the only ones Tarr could find on short notice. Crimped aluminum cupcake wrappers protected their hands from the dripping wax. Joel Swanson, 21, who works at the D.C. Rape Crisis Center, said, "I literally couldn't do anything or speak for about 20 minutes" after he heard about Tiller's death. "I can't believe that someone who considers himself pro-life would do this," he said. He came to the vigil after "one of my friends on Facebook posted it on her wall."

"I think this can transcend pro-life and pro-choice," he said. "I think we can all stand up and say it's not okay to murder people because of their beliefs. It's not okay to murder someone because of their profession."

Kendra Rodgers, a young case manager at the National Abortion Federation wearing a silver cross around her neck, said she "came out to take a minute to think about Dr. Tiller." A co-worker had texted her about the slaying earlier in the day.

"My immediate reaction was to think about the people who had appointments with him this week," she said. Asked what she thought would happen to those patients, she replied: "They might have babies, more than likely. It will be very difficult for them to be seen anywhere else."

The gathering also drew Tracy Sefl, senior vice president at Navigator's Global, a strategic communications group that works on environmental and other progressive causes. "I have the unfortunate distinction of having written my dissertation on clinic violence," Sefl explained, her face full of emotion. "I'm sickened and outraged."

Progressive Change Campaign Committee's Adam Green was there, wearing his worn Google baseball hat, along with Cenk Uygur, host of the Young Turks on Sirius XM Radio and YouTube. Thompson, the pastor, also has a show on Sirius, and he and Uygur discussed the role of talk radio in fomenting what they described as a climate of hate.

"The right-wing stations who are fueling this, they don't recognize you can't incite this kind of stuff," said Thompson. "It's out of control."

Thompson led the group in prayer -- "as nondenominational as possible" -- for Tiller's "soul" and "family," adding that "we even pray for our enemies, for the one who committed this tragic act."

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