In the midst of a renewed debate about abortion in this country, spurred on in large part by the release of undercover videos by the Center for Medical Progress, a group of self-described Christian evangelicals was attacked during a peaceful protest outside a Planned Parenthood clinic.

The group had gone to the Southeast Portland Planned Parenthood clinic as part of the outreach program at Grace Bible Church of Beaverton and in conjunction with the church’s annual evangelism conference.

As the group stood on the public sidewalk, carrying signs and preaching from the gospel, it was accosted by a man shaking a canister of Comet Cleanser on the participants. One member of the group reported that the man seemed “very agitated” and was deliberately shaking the caustic cleanser on the demonstrators while calling them “scum of the earth.”

A Portland police officer witnessed the assault as he drove by in a marked police car, but did not intervene. Instead, the officer, Gene Gillock engaged the unidentified man in conversation and apparently drove him away from the area of the protest in front of the Planned Parenthood clinic.

The officer returned later and interviewed demonstrators who had been hit with the cleanser and verbally attacked. A pastor who was participating in the protest was also interviewed and given contact information by Officer Gillock.

None of the witnesses to the assault were contacted or asked for their statements and when approached by witnesses, the officer refused to discuss the incident or provide his name and badge number.

Witnesses have complained that the incident is a hate crime directed at the protesters solely because they were exercising their First Amendment rights to free speech and the free exercise of their religion. As evangelicals, a key aspect of their faith is bearing witness to it in public.

Participants at the protest have called for an investigation by the Portland Police Department, urging it to view the incident in the same light it would have had the protestors assaulted women or staff entering the Planned Parenthood clinic.



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