UPDATE: We have e-mailed the mayor's office directly to inquire as to whether they plan to request the return of the certificates. We will update the petition when we receive a reply. Thanks again to everyone!
UPDATE: In an e-mail, a city spokesman said:
"To be clear, the City does not endorse extreme or violent tactics, and this proclamation was issued in error. Any group can exercise their constitutional rights, but all of us have a responsibility to do so in a respectful manner. During these events, the NOPD is executing a robust security plan to keep the peace."
While we respect that errors can and do happen, it is incumbent on the mayor and his office to formally request the return of said certificates. If they were issued in error, they have no validity, and can be used by Operation Rescue/Operation Save America to claim a legitimacy that they do not deserve.
For those supporters here in New Orleans, please join us at a vigil on Thursday, July 24th, at 6pm in Duncan Plaza (the location right in front of City Hall was chosen before this petition came to light, but now it will have an even greater impact). (https://www.facebook.com/events/491970450947095/)
And if you can’t make it Thursday, or are out of town, you can pledge a protestor with the New Orleans Abortion Fund (http://neworleansabortionfund.org/). They have been at the forefront of this issue, and discovered the issuance of said certificates!
News coverage of petition:
We, the undersigned, request that you formally rescind the Certificates of Recognition presented to Philip “Flip” L. Benham and Rusty Lee Thomas, leaders of the extreme anti-choice organizations Operation Rescue/Operation Save America (OR/OSA).
OR/OSA are fringe organizations, comprised of those who feel it appropriate to engage in aggressive, threatening, and violent behavior, in the name of denying women their constitutionally-protected right to reproductive health care.
Flip Benham has been arrested over 50 times, and has targeted a variety of abortion-providers, including Dr. George Tiller, who was murdered in 2009 in his church by a OR/OSA adherent, Scott Roeder. He has targeted doctors and their families at their private homes, business, and schools. He has also been convicted of stalking a Charlotte physician, with intent to cause emotional distress.
Rusty Lee Thomas has distributed “Wanted” posters featuring the personal information of abortion-providers, lead stalking activities, has been convicted of criminal trespassing and has been arrested across the country for obstructing clinics.
These individuals, and their supporters, have descended upon New Orleans to threaten, harass, and target the women of this city, and the doctors that believe in freedom of choice and health care for all. They have disrupted neighborhoods, intimidated clinic patients, and harassed innocent residents of this city. Their message is one of violence and hatred.
Regardless of personal ideologies, most Americans agree that harassing women and threatening doctors is extreme behavior that should not be welcomed by the mayor's office. The certificates signed by you gives them a legitimacy that they do not deserve.
Thank you for addressing our “Rescind Certificates of Recognition presented to Operation Save America” petition, and I appreciate your office’s quick response to our concerns. I am pleased to know that the certificates were issued in error.
However, the fact remains that the certificates remain in the hands of religious zealots who have harassed, intimidated, and threatened citizens of New Orleans, giving these individuals, and their tactics, the implied legitimacy that is associated with such recognition.
I would like to know if the mayor’s office has any plans to request the return of the certificates issued in error, or if there is a policy in place to handle such a situation.