Saturday protesters at a southeast Charlotte abortion clinic number in the hundreds – and the clinic and its supporters have called for more city regulation for months.
In October, Charlotte City Council’s community safety committee asked Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Kerr Putney to come up with more ideas for traffic control and safety at the clinic on Saturdays. City leaders have said protesters were blocking vehicles, making it dangerous to travel on Latrobe Drive during peak protest hours.
Putney responded to the committee’s request Thursday, saying his main concern had been that drivers didn’t have a sufficient line of sight around the clinic driveway.
He said officers are now using cones on Saturdays to control parking and help drivers see in the driveway area.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Charlotte Observer
“From a public safety standpoint, we’re about as good as we can make it,” he said.
Calla Hales, lead administrator at the clinic, disagrees.
“How is this safe for anyone?” she asked on Twitter in response to Putney’s announcement.
Hales said the clinic has had nearly 2,000 protesters in the past five weeks, and preventing people from parking in the driveway hasn’t make the situation much safer. As long as people can stand in the driveway and block drivers’ line of sight with their bodies, she said, driving in and out of the clinic will be dangerous.
She said she wants city leaders to enforce existing laws to prevent people from standing in the street, rather than passing a new ordinance, as has been discussed in recent months.
Putney said police are trying to manage the situation without infringing on protesters’ First Amendment rights, and Hales said she recognizes that police are trying to be as neutral as possible.
“However, safety should be paramount,” she said.
Daniel Parks, executive director of the anti-abortion group Cities4Life, which parks an RV offering ultrasounds near the clinic, said Thursday that CMPD’s new traffic control has not hindered Cities4Life.