Week of anti-abortion activism begins in Wichita

In this photo taken Thursday, May 19, 2016, crosses placed by anti-abortion protesters stand in the lawn outside the South Wind Women's Center in Wichita. Julie Burkhart, the executive director at the clinic, has vowed to keep the facility open through planned protests this summer marking the 25th anniversary of the 1991 Summer of Mercy protests that led to nearly 2,700 arrests at this and other clinics in Wichita.

? A prayer gathering Saturday kicked off a week of anti-abortion activities planned to observe the 25th anniversary of the “Summer of Mercy” protests.

The weeklong event is in observance of the 1991 Summer of Mercy when thousands of anti-abortion activists gathered in Wichita, sparking protests that led to nearly 2,700 arrests.

About 10 members of Operation Save America gathered Saturday at a prayer tent near the Wichita convention center, where they are holding a 24-hour prayer vigil. Operation Save America, based in Texas, is a successor organization to the original Operation Rescue, which led the 1991 demonstrations, The Wichita Eagle reported.

In this Sunday, Aug. 25, 1991 file photo, police carry away an anti-abortion protester after she and dozens of others were arrested at an abortion clinic in Wichita. During the 1991 Summer of Mercy, thousands of abortion opponents descended on the city, clogged streets with sit-ins, blocked clinic doors and filled the jails. Protests are planned again this summer at the clinic to mark the 25th anniversary of the 1991 protests that led to nearly 2,700 arrests.

Most of the 1991 arrests were for blocking access to what is now the South Wind clinic, which provides abortions and was run then by Dr. George Tiller, who was shot to death by an abortion opponent in 2009.

But on Saturday there was little activity around the clinic. The street in front of the clinic on was closed to traffic and barricaded with concrete traffic barriers in anticipation of the activities. Two police cars were also nearby.

Operation Save America supporters instead on Saturday celebrated the “first fruits” of their effort when a passerby came to the tent and asked the demonstrators to pray with him, said the Rev. Rusty Thomas, leader of Operation Save America.

Operation Save America’s first mass meeting is scheduled for Saturday evening at the Word of Life Church in Wichita, where the group will be holding public rallies for the next week.

“That will set the spiritual tone for what we want to accomplish in this city,” Thomas said.