Organized far-left protesters repeatedly disrupted a pro-life banquet on Thursday hosted by a pregnancy resource center that was vandalized with pro-abortion sentiments this summer.
The incident is part of an ongoing effort by leftist protesters to pressure and intimidate pro-life advocates who offer women alternatives to abortion. Since the May leak of the draft opinion showing that Roe v. Wade would soon be overturned, scores of pregnancy resource centers have been attacked.
The anti-fascist group ShutDownDC has repeatedly protested at the homes of lawmakers and Supreme Court justices. That group confirmed in a Twitter post that seven individuals disrupted the Capitol Hill Pregnancy Center banquet on Thursday evening.
Security escorted protester Vincent Vertuccio from the room after he began jumping up and down during the banquet and screaming that Capitol Hill Pregnancy Center was a “fake clinic” that lies to women. Vertuccio, who did not respond to requests for comment, repeatedly bragged on social media that he enjoyed the banquet’s “fantastic” food.
“The people that attack reproductive healthcare, welcome fascists with open arms, and expect to dine in peace while ripping our rights from us don’t deserve a minute of peace until they stop their attacks on our communities,” he said on Twitter. “I was proud to disrupt their banquet.”
It is not immediately clear how Vertuccio or the other protesters got into the banquet.
In social media posts, Vertuccio also repeatedly mentioned Alliance Defending Freedom senior counsel Erin Hawley, wife to Republican Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley, who was supposed to attend the event (Erin Hawley sent a video message and was not present in the room).
ShutDownDC aggressively protested outside of the Hawley family residence in January 2021 where they “screamed threats, vandalized, and tried to pound open our door,” according to the senator. Hawley himself was not home at the time.
Responding to Hawley’s remarks in 2021, the group described themselves as “absolutely and unapologetically anti-fascists.”
“Erin Hawley works for 2 hateful organizations that work to oppress women, girls, all pregnant ppl, and queer folks,” ShutDownDC tweeted Thursday. “She personally had a hand in the overturning of Roe v. Wade.”
“F— you Erin Hawley,” tweeted Patrick Young, a ShutDownDC organizer, in a tweet highlighting the protests. He did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Outside the Crystal City Marriott where the event took place, other protesters beat drums, danced, and chanted, “Thank God for abortion.”
Our Rights DC protesters also projected the messages “Bans off our bodies” and “Beware! Toxic political poison” on the walls of the Marriott (the group had advertised for its “Our Bodies Our Abortions” protest on social media, urging supports to “bring noisemakers& signs.”)
Activist Nadine Seiler, who has repeatedly protested outside the homes of the justices and against former President Donald Trump, participated in the demonstrations Tuesday night per a video posted on Twitter by DCMediaGroup. Sadi Kuhns, an activist also affiliated with the protest group Our Rights DC, discussed being present at the protests in social media posts.
Authorities did not immediately respond to requests for comment from The Daily Signal about ShutDownDC and Our Rights DC.
Attack on Capitol Hill Pregnancy Center
In June, a vandal or vandals dumped a bucket of red paint on the Washington, D.C.-based Capitol Hill Pregnancy Center, spray-painted the words “Jane’s Revenge” on the wall of the center, and egged the windows.
Capitol Hill Pregnancy Center, located about a four-minute drive from the Supreme Court, is filled with baby clothing, baby food, and resources for D.C.-area parents who come to the center hoping they can find help rather than resorting to abortion.
The center’s director, Janet Durig, shared with The Daily Signal in October that the Metropolitan Police Department had increased its presence around the center. Though the center itself had increased security measures, she said at the time, there had still been several incidents involving a male allegedly beating on the center’s windows that had made her feel very uncomfortable.
D.C. police told The Daily Signal in October that its investigation into the June vandalism has been suspended pending further evidence (police confirmed Friday that the investigation is still suspended pending further evidence).
On Friday, Durig told The Daily Signal that she still has not heard from the FBI about the June vandalism, though she said the Department of Homeland Security called her a few days before the event and warned her that two groups were calling for disturbing the banquet.
“I had people with me from my security detail that were protecting the center and we coordinated with the hotel to have police there,” she shared. The Department of Homeland Security did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Durig wasn’t worried when the shouting began in the event, she said, noting that the shouting began while she was delivering remarks to the banquet audicence, and that one of her supporters began singing “God Bless America” to drown out the protesters.
When the protesters were taken out of the room, she added, she asked the assembled guests, “Is there anybody else out here who wants to shout? Just go ahead and get it out of your system.”
“I never heard from the FBI,” she emphasized. “I have had no contact. The FBI has done nothing for the Capitol Hill Pregnancy Center.”
Asked why the FBI is apparently uninterested in the attack on her clinic, she responded, “I have no idea. I don’t have a clue.”
“This has become a national situation with all the fire bombings and things in so many places across the country,” she added. “You would think that the FBI would be on top of it.”
Durig said she is “of course” worried that further attacks on the pregnancy center will take place.
“I would hate to see something happen,” she said. “But if it does, we will deal with it and repair it and move on.”
At least 97 Catholic churches and 76 pregnancy resource centers and other pro-life organizations have been attacked since the May leak of the draft Supreme Court opinion overturning Roe v. Wade, according to a Catholic Vote tracker.
Many of these buildings have been vandalized with threats such as, “If abortions aren’t safe, neither are you,” making the attacks incidents of suspected pro-abortion violence.
The FBI has previously said that it is investigating attacks and threats to “pregnancy resource centers, faith-based organizations, and reproductive health clinics” as “potential acts of domestic violent extremism, FACE Act violations, or violent crime matters.”
But the bureau previously refused to tell The Daily Signal how many of its investigations actually involve pregnancy centers and faith-based institutions, nor would it reveal how many attacks on pro-lifers it is investigating as potential violations of the FACE Act.
A list of recent cases on the Justice Department website indicates that the DOJ has not prosecuted a single attack on a pro-life organization or church under the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act (which also protects pro-life centers).
That list includes seven enforcements of the FACE Act in 2022 alone against pro-life activists: The DOJ has charged 26 individuals with FACE Act violations since the beginning of the year.
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