- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 4, 2022

Protesters disrupted the annual fundraising banquet held by the Capitol Hill Pregnancy Center at the Crystal Gateway Marriott in Arlington Thursday. While local police helped remove the demonstrators, no arrests were made.

The protesters, who were linked to two groups, OurRightsDC and ShutDown DC, disrupted the proceedings at least six times, said Michael New, an associate professor at the Catholic University of America who studies and publishes on the social science of pro-life issues. On Twitter, ShutDown DC said their interruptions of the private gathering totaled “7 actually.”

A video posted online after the event showed street protests where activists projected slogans such as “Respect Existence or Expect Resistance” and “Ban Forced Birth” on the hotel’s exterior while singing “Thank God for abortion.”

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The dinner is free and drew a crowd estimated at 340 people, CHPC Executive Director Janet Durig said in a telephone interview. She said the event, which included a video address from Erin Hawley, wife of Sen. Josh Hawley, Missouri Republican, was the first the District-based crisis pregnancy center has held since 2019 due to pandemic-related conditions the past two years.

“It looks like [protesters] signed up for the banquet and were able to come in and eat our food and join us and then would protest one by one,” she said. “It was only when I spoke that they would yell, so that I thought that was interesting.”

Arlington County police spokeswoman Ashley Savage told The Washington Times on Friday that “based on what our officers observed, no arrests were made.”  She said that when demonstrators “were asked to leave, they complied.”

Mr. New said if the protesters were “pro-choice” advocates, “the only choice they seem to favor is abortion.”

He said, “This pregnancy center isn’t political. They’re not involved with trying to legislate against abortion. They’re here to offer alternatives to women, which women can choose to take part in or not. So I think that protesting groups like this is just absurd.”

On Twitter, Vincent Vertuccio, who said he was one of the protesters, said he was “proud” to be part of the demonstration.

“The people that attack reproductive health care, welcome fascists with open arms, and expect to dine in peace while ripping our rights from us don’t deserve a minute of peace until they stop their attacks on our communities,” Mr. Vertuccio wrote. “I was proud to disrupt their banquet.”

Mr. Vertuccio did not respond to a reporter’s request for comment.

Responding to the protest, Mr. New and several others posted on Twitter said they would donate to the CHPC and encouraged others to do so.

A spokeswoman for Sen. Hawley directed a reporter to his Twitter comment: “Hahahah. These people are such losers. 6-3, baby.” 

The numbers refer to the Supreme Court vote in June to overturn Roe v. Wade and return decisions about abortion to state legislatures.

• Mark A. Kellner can be reached at mkellner@washingtontimes.com.

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