Abortion clinics under guard after clashes: Police arrest 20 as violence flares during protest by militant 'pro-life' group

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SECURITY MEN were standing guard outside four London abortion clinics last night after 20 arrests were made earlier in the day during the first demonstration in Britain by Rescue America, the militant US anti-abortion group.

The action was taken by the Marie Stopes clinics to protect women and staff at their centres.

Yesterday's protests came just weeks after a Rescue America supporter was charged with the fatal shooting of a Florida doctor. Opponents of the group clashed with police outside the International Planned Parenthood Federation offices in Regent's Park, London.

Julie Waterson, a young member of Socialist Worker, came to 'oppose and destroy' Rescue America, and defend a woman's right to choose. Ten minutes later Ms Waterson, who led a 30-strong pro-choice picket, was dragged into a police van during a confrontation with officers.

Scores of policemen arrested 18 other pro-choice demonstrators for obstruction when the crowd refused to abandon an orderly protest in Regent's Park. The Metropolitan Police denied later that officers had been heavy-handed. Demonstrators had been told they were breaking the law and had failed to comply with requests to disperse.

This week British abortion clinics are being warned to expect acid attacks, fire bombs and the storming of hospital theatres. But in Rescue America's first British protest, the violence was over before the anti-abortionists arrived. About 20 pro-lifers, mainly from the US and Ireland, dribbled in after the pro-choice arrests. Led by Father James Morrow, a radical Scottish anti-abortionist, they were vastly outnumbered by camera crews and policemen. Father Morrow promised protests at clinics throughout the country this week.

Among the campaigners was Larry Donlin, 41, from Omaha, Nebraska, a representative of Rescue the Heartland. He recently spent five months in jail after blocking the entrance to a local abortion clinic by chaining himself to barrels of concrete. An unmarried Catholic, he believes that a woman has no choice about pregnancy: 'No one has the right to choose the death of another person.'

Some protesters came from an overnight vigil at Hammersmith police station, west London, where Don Treshman, Rescue America's leader, was being held. Yesterday, Mr Treshman, arrested after appearing on BBC2's Newsnight, was served with a deportation order and has been transferred to a Home Office centre in Gosport, Hampshire.

The Home Office says that his presence in Britain 'is not conducive to the public good'. Mr Treshman is seeking a judicial review.

Last night, David Brocklesby, Mr Treshman's solicitor, said he knew of only one other case of a person who was not a criminal or a threat to state security being deported on the 'not-conducive-to-the-public-good' grounds. That was George Raft, the American film star, who was said to be an associate of gangsters, and was barred from the UK in the 1960s. He added: 'This is extremely rare . . . It's usually used against criminals who, when they are released, are deported. I think the Home Office has shot itself in the foot. The Home Secretary must be barking mad.'

The Conservative Family Campaign group, which counts the MPs Sir Teddy Taylor and Bill Walker among its sponsors, also criticised the arrest of Mr Treshman. Stephen Green, the group chairman, said: 'We have a tradition of free speech in this country which I feel has been violated by Mr Treshman's arrest . . .'

Frances Perrow, spokeswoman for the IPPF, said: 'The violence associated with Rescue America and the inflammatory language used by Don Treshman alienated possible support. I think he has set back the anti-abortion movement in this country.'