BUFFER ZONE ENACTED!
There is the long way to tell this story or the short way. I will take the medium way and leave out some stories of the evening.
The eblast we had sent out said to get to the meeting at 7. Then we were told there would be "hordes" of protesters there, so I told people one by one to be there at 6:30. Good thing it was a nice night, as the doors did not open till after 7, and those of us waiting got pretty cold in 30-40 minutes! (Next time I have to remember to check door opening times!)
During the day it occurred to me that if there were to be “hordes of protesters" they might take down our announced addresses, so I called in to the City Manager and asked if we might hand in our addresses instead of saying them out loud when speaking. The upshot was that I was told when I got inside that we did not have to give addresses, we could just say our names and "From NOW." So that is what I told everyone, but some gave their addresses anyway, and it seemed OK.
Joining Northern NJ NOW members in the waiting crowd outside the building (which some thought was a "line" to get in) were NOW NJ Acting President Deb Huber, a group from Middlesex NOW, Vicky Stapleton, NOW NJ Action VP, and Sue and Ned Waldman from Morris County NOW. We thank all people who came from so far to stand up for women's rights in Englewood.
Also waiting at the beginning were the courageous clinic escorts, whose names I will not give, but who are wonderful comrades in arms. Also people from New Jersey Abortion Access Fund (NJAAF) and Unitarian Society of Ridgewood (USR), and just plain supporters of women's rights!
Two amusing (?) stories from our waiting time in front of the Municipal Court Building--there were two protesters there to our 30 or 40 early on. One attempted to engage NNJ Board Member and State Delegate Matt Shapiro in conversation and Matt said that the protester did "not want to know" what he (Matt) thought of his ideas. The protester told Matt that he was not "civil." Then the two protesters went to the back of the crowd to frantically call for reinforcements. By the time everyone was present for this issue (there were other things on the agenda) we had the overwhelming majority of the attendees out of about the 100 present, while the protesters had about a dozen and a very large photo sign of a fetus, which they were allowed to hold up at the meeting for some reason (along with religious texts on signs).
The second interesting interaction: I had my NOW button on under my jacket. Not realizing that it was not visible, I sought to take attendance. i asked one gentleman whether he was on my list. The frightened man refused to tell me who he was, asking who I might be. i told him I was from the NSA, which he took seriously and wanted to know what that meant! By the time we got it sorted out, I found out that he was Carol Loscalzo's husband--the very same intrepid NOW member Carol who made phone calls for us to get out the members, and who is also President of NJAAF , an escort, and Chair of the Reproductive Justice Committee of the USR. Carol had told Frank not to give his name to ANYONE--and he LISTENED!
There were two reporters present--one from The Record (who did the first story as well) and one from Northern Valley Suburbanite (sic) so I gave them my prepared press releases, hoping that I had it right.
First on the agenda, once we got in and got our seats, was police promotions. The police were probably gratified to see so many people there for their big day, and we warmly applauded them and their families. They were actually funny and it was heartwarming, so that was enjoyable. The rest of the agenda items went by in a flash and we were up to the second reading of the ordinance to create a buffer zone for the clinic and all medical facilities in Englewood.
Rosalind Maiden and Ella Urdang from Englewood spoke eloquently in favor of the ordinance. Then many of us lined up to speak. Jane Doe spoke on behalf of the escorts. The lawyer for the "praying women" in front of the clinic threatened to sue immediately and restrain the law given that the Supreme Court will find buffer zones unconstitutional (he spoke as tho he had inside information, or it had already happened). He said there was no harassment, only free speech. NNJ NOW VP Vanessa spoke for the women, reading from the anonymous questionnaires we collected from them in which they bitterly complained of harassment, refuting the lawyer, and told of her own experiences outside the clinic, as did NNJ NOW Treasurer Mary Martire. Matt spoke passionately of the indignities the women are subjected to when going to and from the clinic and asked for passage of more of the ordinances we are fighting for. I thanked the Council and exhorted them to pass an ordinance prohibiting the filming and photographing of the women and their escorts, which films are then put up on Youtube as intentional intimidation, in violation of the FACE Act. I pointed out the inconsistency with HIPPA, as NNJ NOW Board member Dina Willner had urged me to do.
Acting NOW NJ President Deb Huber praised the Council for the cooperative approach it had taken with NNJ NOW and urged them to continue to more solutions. She also praised NNJ NOW and said she was very proud of us for getting something like this done and not just making a lot of noise.
Three of the protesters spoke. They invoked God and Jesus, said that calling the women "murderers" was only telling the truth, and one of them gave a personal story, saying that he and his wife had allowed their baby to be aborted and he regretted it. A member of the Jewish Women's Council got up right after thee three men spoke and said that everyone should notice only men spoke against women having access to reproductive health services. During all this, the crowd applauded many times for our speakers, and was obviously disturbed with the protesters speeches, but was pretty restrained during those.
Then came time for the vote by Council. After remarks by Council Member Michael Cohen, who said that there was so much tension in the room you could only imagine what the tension would be like in front of the clinic, where women were going to have medical procedures that were disturbing in themselves, their vote was UNANIMOUS in favor of the buffer zone. The crowd gave the Council a standing ovation.
People did not want to leave; tears were in eyes, smiles on faces. The public session began. Matt ran up to finish his statement from before, asking the Council to pass a noise ordinance because doctors doing procedures were being disrupted by the noise. NNJ NOW Board Member Judith Green got up to thank the Council and gave one of the most moving speeches of the night. The lawyer from the clinic thanked the Council and told them that they had no idea how much the ordinance would mean to the clinic and the escorts. Sue Waldmen told me she was so glad she came as she felt like a part of history.
This is what I remember without taking any notes whatsoever. If I left out anyone or anything, I apologize.
This morning the story is in The Record. Unfortunately, it does not mention the chapter, but does quote Deb from her speech, which means that NOW is included in the article. There is a huge, lovely shot of the escorts, whether they wanted that or not!
So--VICTORY and on to the next ordinances, while this one is in the courts. I believe that our strong turnout and support for the Council energized them and let them know that they are not alone in standing up for women's rights. That means there will be more ordinances and improvements for the women who depend on this clinic. That was the point asking you all to come. Thank you all for showing up and standing up!
Northern NJ NOW