- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 23, 2023

Capitol Police dispersed a crowd of anti-abortion protesters Thursday morning and arrested seven ringleaders who refused to stop blocking traffic near the Rayburn House Office Building.

“Protesters are illegally blocking traffic on Independence Avenue, near New Jersey Avenue,” said a post on the Capitol Police’s Twitter account. “We gave the crowd multiple warnings to get out of the street.”

The tweet added that police charged the seven protesters who refused to clear the street with a misdemeanor violation of “crowding, obstructing, or incommoding” traffic.

The seven activists belong to the Progressive Anti-Abortion Uprising, which said they were charged and released. The group named Terrisa Bukovinac, Constance Becker, Elise Ketch, Caroline Smith, Melanie Salazar, Robert Byrd and Kristin Turner as the arrested protesters.

Several of the arrested activists — including Ms. Bukovinac, the PAAU leader — were involved in last year’s recovery of fetuses from a Capitol Hill home and have been arrested in the past.

The Alexandria Police Department arrested Ms. Bukovinac, Ms. Bell, Ms. Turner, Lauren Handy, Herb Geraghty, Cassidy Shooltz, Jonathan Darnell and Joan Andrews Bell on Nov. 16, 2021, for temporarily occupying the Alexandria Women’s Health Clinic in Northern Virginia. A magistrate fined and released the eight of them.

Last year, D.C. police officers recovered the remains of five fetuses from the home of Ms. Handy. She and Ms. Bukovinac claimed the fetuses were among 115 that a Curtis Bay Medical Waste Services driver gave them outside the Washington Surgi-Clinic on F Street last March 25.

The discovery led some Republican lawmakers on Capitol Hill to call upon District officials to conduct autopsies of the fetuses, which the activists claim were late-term abortions that violated the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act and the Born Alive Infant Protection Act.

At around 10:20 a.m. on Thursday, the activists carried images of the fetuses as they moved into the streets and blocked traffic in both directions, calling on Congress to hold hearings into the condition of the fetuses.

City officials have declined to comment on the group and a Capitol Police spokesperson on Thursday would not comment further on the arrests.

Correction: An earlier version of this article misreported the number of PAAU activists arrested in a November 2021 incident.

• Sean Salai can be reached at ssalai@washingtontimes.com.

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