Police said 311 people were arrested yesterday on the second day of antiabortion protests and counter-demonstrations in the District -- a cold, damp day of cat-and-mouse gamesmanship that ended in declarations of victory from each side.
No injuries were reported, and operators of two clinics said they operated with relatively slight delays. An additional 343 arrests were made during Operation Rescue protests Friday, although it was not clear if any protesters were arrested more than once.
D.C. police Sgt. Joseph Gentile said some of those arrested yesterday were abortion-rights supporters seeking to keep the clinics open.
Several hundred abortion opponents from Operation Rescue squared off at dawn against a like number of abortion-rights advocates from the National Organization for Women and the Washington Area Clinic Defense Task Force. Aided by cellular phones and various ruses, they tried to outfox each other for the rest of the day, at times chasing each other across town on frantic Metro rides.
Last year, more than 700 antiabortion activists were arrested during Operation Rescue protests that took place in the District and Prince George's County. Since then, a federal judge has issued an injunction against further blockades. Maryland and Virginia also have enjoined Operation Rescue and several of its leaders from cutting off access to clinics.
Those injunctions have hurt participation in the protests, said Operation Rescue founder Randall Terry, but he said the movement is rebounding in numbers and enthusiasm. "We will never give up until our bodies are cold in the ground or until child killing is driven back to hell where it came from," said Terry, who was arrested during an afternoon protest.
Wayne Codding, operations director of the Capitol Women's Center at 1339 22nd St. NW, said several patients arrived before the blockaders yesterday and others were able to gain entrance from an alley during the protest. Codding said he was surprised that the number of no-shows was not out of the ordinary.
"I'd consider it a nuisance," he said. "We had a full day. For a national group, it's not an impressive number."
The day began with abortion-rights activists gathering about 5 a.m. in front of the Planned Parenthood clinic at 1701 Q St. Other activists stood watch at sites in Maryland and Virginia, but no protests took place outside the District.
In the dark and rain of dawn, a teenage girl, bundled in rain gear and accompanied by a middle-aged woman, approached an escort and was set upon at the same time by two antiabortion activists.
"You're killing your grandchild," one said to the older woman. "It has a heartbeat."
Abortion foe Ben Kellum tried to shove a thumb-sized plastic, fully formed fetus into the face of the teenager, who looked no older than 15.
"Get away," the woman yelled. Police dragged away Kellum, of West Nyack, N.Y., but did not arrest him.
About 7:30, antiabortion forces marched several blocks to the Capitol Women's Center. Abortion-rights supporters raced down the streets and managed to link arms and form a wall around the facility, only to be surrounded by a line of Operation Rescue activists. Police then taped off the two human walls and began arresting demonstrators.
Those arrested -- including several priests, a nun and many children -- went limp as police dragged them away. .
People arrested for blocking access to clinics were cited on misdemeanors charges and assessed $50 fines.
As arrests proceeded, other Operation Rescue members made a break for the Dupont Circle Metro stop, doggedly shadowed by abortion-rights activists. Shortly after 9 a.m., Terry and about 75 abortion opponents emerged at the Gallery Place station and walked to the Greater Washington Health Center, 1012 Sixth St. NW.
There are conflicting versions of what happened there.
Abortion-rights sources say the clinic was never supposed to open. A sign on the door said the building is regularly closed on Saturdays.
"I didn't even know there was a clinic here," said Hannah Olanoff, president of the D.C. state office of NOW. "If they want to stand in front of a closed clinic, that's the kind of demonstration we have no problems with."
Many Operation Rescue protesters contended that the sign was a trick. Mike Haley, a minister from Oklahoma, said a woman had scheduled an abortion yesterday at the clinic. He and others said the clinic would have opened for business if they had not been there.
About 75 people massed eight-deep in front of the door for more than two hours as a chilling wind blew. The group drank coffee and sang "Amazing Grace." Some rubbed rosaries. "They won't open as long as we're here," Terry told reporters at 10:15 a.m.
Shortly before noon, a woman sporting an abortion-rights button shouted a question at the Operation Rescue group:
"What kind of leadership do you have?" the woman demanded. "You've been at a closed clinic all day."
About that time, word was passing among Operation Rescue supporters to get ready to move to another clinic. There was no announcement of the move. The crowd simply began walking -- some began running -- about 11:45 a.m. toward the entrance to the Gallery Place Metro station.
Inside, demonstrators were stopped by broken fare machines. Unable to buy Farecards, dozens of them began scrambling over the gates and through the emergency entrances.
At the Dupont Circle station, Terry mounted a bench. "Does anyone know where we go?" he asked.
Receiving a cue from someone in the crowd, Terry pointed toward the Q Street exit. "This way," he shouted, "and we may have to do a little hopping on the way out."
At the exit gates, a Metro guard came out to find out why so many people seemed to have no Farecards. "We have 300 people who couldn't get Farecards," Terry told the guard.
"You've got 300 people who are evading the fare," the guard told Terry. "And I'm going to call the police." No arrests were made at the station.
With Terry leading, the demonstrators returned to the Capitol Women's Center, the 22nd Street clinic where there had been more than 200 arrests earlier in the day. The protesters quickly settled into positions near the entrances to the clinic, and police made about 85 more arrests.