- The Washington Times - Monday, June 1, 2009

The abortion doctor who was killed Sunday in a Kansas church was memorialized as a martyr and a victim of hate speech at a quickly organized candlelight vigil in the District.

More than 100 people gathered after 9 p.m. at the fountain in Dupont Circle to hear the Rev. Mark Thompson of Israel Baptist Church call the vigil an “alternative to the hate speech we have been hearing and that probably incited this.”

“It was also fitting that [Dr. George Tiller] was in Your presence at this time” of his slaying, Mr. Thompson said during his invocation prayer.

Asked by The Washington Times afterward to elaborate on what he meant by “hate speech,” Mr. Thompson called the Tiller killing a wake-up call to “those who have been engaged in hateful speech and rhetoric.”

“This ought to be a lesson. Everyone is listening,” and unstable people may take messages the wrong way, said Mr. Thompson, who also hosts a radio show on Sirius XM.

But “all they did is make Dr. Tiller a martyr. In doing so, they made him more powerful.”

Tanya Tarr, the 29-year-old organizer of the vigil, told The Times before the minister’s prayer that she thought it was “very contradictory” for pro-life advocates to condone a killing, particularly in a church.

After Mr. Thompson spoke, Ms. Tarr publicly thanked several members of the National Abortion Federation who she said were present, though she did not single them out.

Several people in the crowd said, “Here, here,” and Ms. Tarr, though she wondered aloud about the appropriateness of cheering at a vigil, led the crowd in three rounds of “Hip, hip, hooray.”

A demonstrator standing next to Ms. Tarr and who spoke to her during the vigil held up a piece of cardboard with the hastily scrawled slogan “defeat rightist terror.”

Ms. Tarr said she began to organize the vigil via Twitter messages and that the word spread quickly through Facebook and other forms of social networking.

Alex Thurston, a 25-year-old recent Georgetown graduate, said he found out about the event via an e-mail list.

He said he echoed what President Obama had said earlier in the day, that regardless of differences over abortion, “I don’t believe they can or should be solved by violence.”

Elizabeth Berryhill, a 24-year-old student at George Washington University, said she was saddened by the slaying, “but I can’t say I was that surprised.”

She referred to Dr. Tiller as an advocate for women’s rights and said “the thing that really touched me was that he was murdered in a church.”

During his prayer, Mr. Thompson also prayed “for all the women in the world … and their privacy,” going on to imply that God, whom he addressed at the start as “mother-father,” was pro-choice.

“We know it’s not the act, but the circumstances” and that “we should not question” women who abort.

Ms. Tarr ended the vigil by telling the crowd that another vigil would be held in front of the White House from 6:30 to 9:30 a.m. Monday.

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