Anti-abortion activists — at least one of whom has a criminal record — have been harassing children and staffers at a Washington, D.C. elementary school simply because the school happens to be near a yet-to-be-built Planned Parenthood, according to a lawsuit filed Wednesday.
Two Rivers Public Charter School accuse the activists of blocking carpool lanes, and showing children graphic images. They so upset one child that he would only come back if a school counselor agreed to meet him before coming on campus, Slate reports.
The suit accuses the protesters of engaging in “extreme and outrageous conduct,” targeting students as little as 3 years old with images of mangled fetuses and telling them about a “murder facility” set to open next door, the Washington Post reports. The school wants the court to issue an injunction preventing protesters from approaching or talking to students or showing them graphic images.
One of the protesters named in the suit is Robert Weiler Jr., of Maryland, who was convicted of plotting to bomb a clinic, the Post reports.
“We are a diverse community with different viewpoints on the issue,” Jessica Wodatch, the school’s executive director, wrote in a letter to parents about the lawsuit. “Our students are caught up in a controversy that is not about them — our goal is to allow them safe passage to school.”
School administrators received a letter from activists that asked how the school planned to stop the Planned Parenthood from being constructed.
“I’m sure you don’t want to see me, my anti-abortion friends and our graphic images any more than we want to be in your neighborhood,” protester Jonathan Darnel wrote in the letter.
Things are so bad the school is considering closing on January 21, which is a day before the annual March for Life event.
School officials complain the protesters have told children about a “bloodbath” and “murder” about to happen next door.
D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser said she and the local police have been working with the school to prevent the students, staff and parents from being harassed.
“Students should be able to get to school without being harassed, and without any threat to their safety and security,” she told the Post.
D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine vowed to prosecute anyone who violates the law.
“Protecting children is one of our highest priorities at the office of the attorney general, and we are very concerned about the allegations set forth in the complaint,” Racine told the Post. “We are committed to ensuring that students, teachers and parents are not harassed or otherwise intimidated by aggressive and unnecessarily inflammatory protests that go beyond the protections afforded by the First Amendment.”
But Darnel seemed unwilling to take any responsibility for the actions of protesters, instead blaming the school, a high-performing elementary and middle school that opened its doors in 2003 — ten years before Planned Parenthood announced it would open a facility next door.
“We blame the messenger instead of the message,” he told the Post. “They should be filing a lawsuit against Planned Parenthood for moving in there and building this place next to their school.”