Police expect hundreds in Wichita to mark 25th anniversary of Summer of Mercy

Published: Jul. 11, 2016 at 10:53 PM CDT
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It's an event that brought thousands of abortion protesters to Wichita for almost the whole summer. Next week police expect hundreds to return to Wichita to mark the 25th anniversary of the Summer of Mercy. But the group that sponsored the original protests won't be taking part in next week's anniversary events, because they say the new sponsors are too violent.

"We believe that all life should be cherished, from the moment of conception all the way through natural death," said Troy Newman with Wichita's Operation Rescue.

That's the belief that brought thousands of abortion protesters to Wichita in the summer of 1991 for what became known as the Summer of Mercy.

But Operation Rescue, the group that sponsored those protests, won't be taking part next week, mostly because of the new organizers, Operation Save America.

"We do not believe in killing abortionists or anybody else. We do not believe in burning the Koran. That's a hate crime," said Newman while describing the off-shoot group.

The clinic run by Doctor George Tiller was the center of the original demonstrations and will be again. This worries those who re-opened the clinic after Tiller's murder in 2009.

"Some of them are anti-choice extremists," said the clinic's spokeswoman Deb Gruver about Operation Save America. "And we also have some concern about the prose that the anti's have used, such as 'let's finish this.'"

The clinic has been working with the Wichita police for weeks to set up security for next week.

"We're definitely beefing up or bringing in coverage for this event," said Officer Charley Davison, Wichita Police.

Hundreds more officers will be on the street. And the clinic says other agencies, like the ATF, are helping out. All to be prepared in case protesters repeat scenes like those from 25 years ago.

"And we're doing our part by not counter protesting," Gruver said. "That would bring hundreds more people out potentially and it would become difficult to know who's on what side."

Reverend Rusty Thomas with Operation Save America says the ministry organized the original Summer of Mercy in 1991. He says Operation Save America advocates peace and makes its participants sign a nonviolence pledge.

"We have pastors and leaders to monitor the crowd to make sure no one dishonors the Lord in speech or conduct," Thomas says in a Facebook post from Operation Save America, disputing a few claims that have been made ahead of their presence in Wichita. "We cannot become what we seek to end. The Bible is clear on that. We over come evil by doing good."

On its website Operation Save America is calling next week's events the Summer of Justice. The schedule begins with church services over the weekend, with protests scheduled to start next Monday.