Monday, June 1, 2009

Dr. George Tiller murdered in church

(Photo: Washington, DC Vigil for Dr. George Tiller, 2009.05.31 by Evan Robinson, Group News Blog)

Sara Robinson has a great post up at Orcinus that deserves a read.

The news spread quickly. Washington DC is apparently a wired town, even on a Sunday at the National Zoo.

Yesterday morning Dr. George Tiller was shot to death inside his church in Wichita, Kansas. Operation Rescue issued a press release. A suspect was in custody. He (or someone in Kansas with the same name) had links to militia organizations. The killing happened on the sixth anniversary of Eric Rudolph's capture.

(Photo: Washington, DC Vigil for Dr. George Tiller, 2009.05.31 by Evan Robinson, Group News Blog)

By late afternoon when we met up with a couple of friends for dinner, a vigil has been planned for 9pm at Dupont Circle. After dinner, we bundle ourselves into a cab for the five-minute ride.

The group starts small and eventually grows to perhaps 75 people. Passers-by ask "what's this about" and when they hear the news and reason for the vigil, some stay. Some weep. Some curse. The crowd swirls as people pass candles around, light and re-light them. Smaller groups within the mass talk or remain silent, hold hands or link arms or just lean on each other for support. A man bears a hand-lettered sign saying "Stop Rightist Terror". The organizer speaks briefly. A prayer is said. The organizer calls for a cheer to support the people out on the front lines.

(Photo: Washington, DC Vigil for Dr. George Tiller, 2009.05.31 by Evan Robinson, Group News Blog)

I take pictures, because it's the best way to immerse myself in something other than anger. Taking good pictures of a candlelight vigil is tough, because it's generally dark when they happen, and flash destroys the characteristic glow of handheld flames. Concentrating on something other than the vicious stupidity and bigotry of the action that brought us here keeps me centered.

I won't claim to be a great warrior for the right to choose. When Operation Rescue came to San Jose in 1996 I attended clinic defense training, bore signs denouncing terrorism outside the OR pep rally, and stood in front of medical facilities that were never targeted by OR. I've stuffed envelopes for NARAL, but I can't claim that I've made any huge difference.

(Photo: Washington, DC Vigil for Dr. George Tiller, 2009.05.31 by Evan Robinson, Group News Blog)

Dr. Tiller did. Despite physical and legal attacks, George Tiller stood in the front lines (in front of the front lines) of the abortion battle and provided desperately needed services to women in desperate situations. He was attacked with bullets, subpoenas, and false accusations of illegal abortions. Nothing stopped him.

Until yesterday, when a right-wing authoritarian idiot charged into a church and gunned him down.

The suspect in custody is Scott Roeder. According to currently available information, he or someone with the same name has a history of arrest for possessing bomb materials and links to the Freemen group. He or someone with the same name is well known to members of the Kansas militia movement. He or someone with the same name had posted to Operation Rescue's web site in 2007 suggesting a visit to Dr. Tiller's church "to ask the doctor and other worshippers about his work".

In other words, it seems likely at this point that Scott Roeder is another typical right-wing extremist who lives on the edge of hate whipped up by people like Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, and Bill O'Reilly, who called Tiller "Tiller the baby-killer", referred to his clinic as a "death-mill", and said Tiller "had blood on his hands". O'Reilly has attacked Tiller 28 times since 2005, claiming (falsely at this point) that Tiller had performed illegal late-term abortions which O'Reilly called "executing babies about to be born".

If the right-wing projection of liberal violence was real, people like O'Reilly and Limbaugh who encourage hate and violence against others would be living in bunkers afraid to come out into the light. They'd need more security than President Obama. The fact that they can walk the streets safely, go to work and spew their bile over the public airwaves, incite violence against people with whom they disagree, and not fear for their lives is evidence of the depth of progressive and liberal tolerance. They should be deeply grateful that their opponents remain so tolerant in the face of blatant eliminationism -- in both word and action.