The city of Charlotte said Monday it won’t add no-parking signs outside an abortion clinic, which will allow the anti-abortion group Cities4Life to continue parking an RV that offers ultrasounds to women.
However, City Manager Marcus Jones said police will patrol the area near the clinic on Latrobe Drive more frequently.
“It’s clear that there is a behavior issue with protesters blocking vehicles,” he said. “I have spoken with the chief, and what we’re going to do is increase CMPD’s presence. More importantly we will take appropriate action to stop unlawful behavior.”
The clinic, A Preferred Women’s Health Center of Charlotte, has been the target of anti-abortion protesters for years. In recent months, the protests have grown larger, especially on Saturday mornings.
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The clinic and pro-abortion rights groups have asked for help from the city. They said that protesters have harassed women going to the clinic, and that the combination of having the RVs parking outside the clinic and dozens of protestors makes it hard to walk or drive to the clinic.
The group that leads the protests, Cities4Life of Concord, pleaded with the city last month not to install the no-parking signs. By doing so, the group said the city would be muzzling its right to free speech. The group said it uses the RVs to give women considering an abortion a free ultrasound.
Jones said the Charlotte Department of Transportation analyzed Latrobe Drive and decided the street isn’t busy enough to warrant the no-parking signs. CDOT came to a similar decision about the no-parking signs in 2009.
Republican City Council member Ed Driggs said Jones made the right decision.
“We did not want to politicize this inappropriately,” he said. “You are addressing the right thing, the alleged bad behavior.”
Other council members encouraged CMPD to crack down on protesters if they harass people trying to access the clinic.
“I felt like people are being bullied and harassed at that location, and that’s very inappropriate,” said Democrat Al Austin.
Democrat Julie Eiselt said “the bad behavior” at the clinic would not be OK if it were in the middle of the city, instead of in an office park off Wendover Road.
“If there is a sound ordinance, and if the law is being broken, people need to be cited (on both sides),” Eiselt said.
Mayor Pro Tem Vi Lyles, a Democrat, said the atmosphere outside the clinic “doesn’t feel comfortable and doesn’t feel very safe.”