· Sample of E-mailed Threats "In spite of threats against us, we will be reaching out to the community this weekend to pray for peace and memorialize those who have succumbed to abortion violence, both inside and outside the womb," said Newman. Operation Rescue is taking extraordinary security precautions to insure the safety of all participants, including hiring off-duty Wichita Police officers. "Let's show the world that, as Christians, we will not shirk back in fear, but will boldly proclaim the Gospel of Peace and Reconciliation, as our Lord commands," said Newman.
By Tim Potter, The Wichita Eagle
June 19, 2009Troy Newman, president of Operation Rescue, says the number of threats has increased since the slaying of George Tiller. Three Wichita-based anti-abortion groups say they have received death threats in response to last month's killing of George Tiller. For years, Operation Rescue has received threats, but the number increased markedly after Tiller's killing, the group's president, Troy Newman, said Thursday.
Some of the threats have been aimed at anti-abortion activities planned in Wichita this weekend, Newman said.Soon after Tiller's shooting, police contacted four to five local anti-abortion groups, asking them to contact authorities if they received threats, said Wichita police Capt. Brent Allred. Allred said police would investigate threats on either side of the abortion issue. "That's our job... to take a fair and impartial role on this," he said.For this weekend's events, off-duty officers have been hired to help provide security, Newman said. It wasn't clear Thursday whether on-duty officers will be used. The activities will include a prayer vigil Saturday near Tiller's clinic on East Kellogg. One e-mail referring to this weekend's activities said there would be "vengeance," Newman said. Newman said he has received other troubling messages since the shooting. In one, a man said, "You're dead, punk...." In another, a woman threatened Newman and his family. Newman said he has reported some of the threats to police and that he is taking security measures."You're aware of your surroundings, no matter where you are," he said. 'Emotions are... high'Around the nation, anti-abortion leaders have been taking precautions before and after the shooting, said the Rev. Patrick Mahoney, director of the Washington, D.C.-based Christian Defense Coalition. "I don't want to go into detail, but I know for a fact that numerous pro-life leaders travel with bulletproof vests," Mahoney said. Wichita is now at the "epicenter" of the fallout over Tiller's death, he said. A gunman shot Tiller as he was serving as an usher May 31 at his church near Rock Road and 13th Street. "Emotions are running very high in Wichita," said Mahoney, who said he plans to be at the anti-abortion activities here this weekend. Within hours of the May 31 shooting, Newman said, Allred called to say that authorities were concerned that someone could seek retaliation for Tiller's death by attacking anti-abortion leaders. Although abortion opponents have widely condemned the shooting, some of them have been accused of encouraging the attack on Tiller by vocal, often bitter, opposition to doctors performing abortions. Tiller was one of the few doctors nationally providing late-term abortions. Scott Roeder, a 51-year-old who has lived around the Kansas City area and has protested at abortion clinics, has been charged with first-degree murder in Tiller's death. Mahoney, the Christian Defense Coalition leader, said he has received about 50 death threats over the years but didn't receive what he would consider a direct death threat after the Tiller shooting - although one man called to say, "You better watch yourself." "Abortion is an emotional, controversial subject on both sides of the issue, and when you have that kind of emotion... on the fringes of both sides of the divide you're going to have people who lash out," he said. Other threatsJust a few hours after the Tiller shooting, Mary Wilkinson was answering phones at the Wichita office of the anti-abortion group Kansans for Life when she got a call that stunned and scared her, she said. "This person was out of control, emotionally, you could just tell" - speaking in a loud, angry tone about Tiller's killing, she said. She said she wanted to tell him, "We did not have anything to do with this.... That's not what this organization is about. We were horrified about it and sad about it. Killing is never the answer." But the person - it sounded like a man, but she wasn't sure - wouldn't let her "get a word in edgewise," she said. "I hope you're happy," the person said. "You've killed him. Now I hope somebody comes and kills you all." The call prompted David Gittrich, the group's state development director, to call police and report the threat. At the office, the staff waited for an officer to arrive before they left. "Because of that threat, we decided it was time to go home," Gittrich said. Wilkinson said she feels optimistic now."I think things are settling down now," she said. "I just think the community needs some healing time." A third Wichita-based anti-abortion group, the Kansas Coalition for Life, also has received threats, said the group's president, Mark Gietzen. Gietzen said he received three serious threats since the shooting, two of which were "bad enough that I called police," he said. One person left a text message a few hours after the shooting. The message: "One of you is going to die for what you did to Tiller." ________________________________