Wichita — Just days before the planned Summer of Mercy Renewal, Wichita Mayor Bob Knight said Wednesday anyone caught blocking abortion clinic entrances will be arrested and taken to jail.
The mayor's comments which the city also posted on its web site come as local officials make final preparations for the return of abortion activists a decade after the Summer of Mercy protests.
"The national and local leaders of Operation Save America have assured me and other members of the City of Wichita staff they plan to conduct peaceful, prayerful and legal demonstrations of their beliefs. As Christians and members of the clergy, I am going to take them at their word," Knight said.
"But I am also going to hold them to their word. Let me make it perfectly clear: As mayor of the City of Wichita, I hold leaders and organizers of the Summer of Mercy Renewal event responsible for making sure their followers follow the law."
In 1991, the Summer of Mercy protests resulted in 2,700 arrests on charges ranging from loitering and trespassing to assaulting law officers. Protesters blocked entrances to clinics and forced their way inside one of them. At one anti-abortion rally, police estimated the crowd at 30,000 people.
The protests cost the city $800,000, City Spokesman Mike Taylor said. The extra expenses included overtime paid to police officers, transportation costs and miscellaneous items such as plastic handcuffs used to restrain protesters.
City officials passed an ordinance the following year imposing $2,000 bail on people who block access to local businesses. In 1991, most arrested protesters were released on their own recognizance.
In 1994, Congress passed the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act, which bans the use of force, threats or blockades.
Rev. Flip Benham, director of Operation Save America, said this summer's demonstrations in Wichita will not be anything like 1991. He said there won't be as many protesters in Wichita this time and that the $2,000 bail ordinance will deter protesters from being too aggressive
Wichita's Summer of Mercy Renewal will be the kickoff rally for a number of planned anti-abortion protests starting this October in cities across the nation. Church leaders from 150 cities will use Wichita as a training ground for protests planned for their cities, Benham said.
"What you have the privilege of seeing is the beginning of the end for the abortion industry," Benham said.
Kansas will be the focal point of the abortion battle much like the state has been throughout its history for other causes such as the slavery, prohibition and evolution, Benham said.
At the turn of the 20th century, it was Kansas that set the tone for national politics. It was called "Bleeding Kansas" for its violence over slavery. Its famously zealous prohibition movement was personified by Carrie Nation, who smashed her first saloon in Kiowa in 1901.
"We see that Kansas has been the focal point of the gospel battle and is it still and will be this summer," Benham said.