Operation Rescue, in moves that have angered Jewish leaders, continued today to target a Jewish doctor who performs abortions for his role in what the predominantly Christian movement calls "the American Holocaust."
Amherst police estimated they had arrested about 100 abortion foes -- including the Rev. Robert L. Schenck of the Town of Tonawanda -- who crossed police lines by 10 a.m. this morning at the Amherst office of Dr. Shalom Press at 2550 Sweet Home Road.
The noisy demonstration by an estimated 800 people -- about 500 of them abortion opponents -- produced the greatest number of arrests since April 22, when 192 abortion foes were arrested in Amherst. More than 540 have now been charged in the two-week Spring of Life campaign, all but a handful abortion foes.
Despite today's protest, patients were escorted into the doctor's office, and Press arrived at about 9:30 a.m. Pro-choice leaders said all patients with appointments made it into the office but declined to say how many.
"All week they have not had a single success," Katharine Spiller of the Feminist Majority Foundation said of pro-life demonstrators, who took two days off this week for prayer and fasting. "They are in a state of disarray."
The Rev. Daren Drzymala disputed her.
"Our goal is to save lives," he said, "not necessarily close down the clinic."
Police also arrested three to five pro-choice demonstrators today outside Press' office. Pro-life leaders referred to it as a "death camp" Thursday night in a candlelight vigil of 1,500 pro-life forces that was filled with imagery of the Nazi Holocaust.
"This is the international day to remember the Holocaust, and this place is where the Holocaust continues to happen," the Rev. Keith Tucci, national leader of Operation Rescue, said to 1,500 abortion foes outside the office Thursday evening.
Thursday was Yom Hashoah, a national holiday in Israel that also is commemorated by Jews around the world by lighting candles to honor the victims of the Nazis.
Leaders of the Jewish Federation of Buffalo were critical of Operation Rescue's move.
"When any individual or organization turns the Holocaust into a means for achieving his own ends, he has trivialized the suffering of 6 million Jews and desecrated their memory," said Shelley Hirshberg, chairwoman of the organization's community relations committee.
"We believe it is morally wrong to distort the meaning of the Holocaust. We believe a far more appropriate recognition of the Holocaust took place this evening at SS. Peter and Paul Church in Williamsville, where the victims of the Holocaust were memorialized in a sensitive and moving observance by people from all faiths."
The imagery continued this morning at Press' office, with one abortion foe carrying a sign reading: "Close America's Death Camps."
Operation Rescue leaders would not apologize for their use of the Holocaust.
"We realize some people are offended by the references to the Holocaust," said Karen Swallow Prior, a spokeswoman for the Western New York Pro-Life Rescue Movement. "But we think people should be more offended by abortion."
Cathleen McGuire, clinic coordinator for Buffalo United for Choice, criticized Operation Rescue's tactics against Press.
"It is an insult to every Jew to make the comparison between abortion and the Holocaust," she said.
Mrs. Prior said there will be more protests Saturday, followed by a final rally for the Spring of Life on Sunday. She said local protests may continue next week.
"This could go on indefinitely as far as the rescue of children," said Joseph Slovenec, a regional organizer from Cleveland. "The Spring of Life campaign will essentially end this weekend."
Operation Rescue's national leaders are still scheduled to leave Buffalo tomorrow, spokesman Bob Jewitt said. He confirmed that Jeff White, who with Slovenec was among the five leaders arrested for violating a federal injunction, had already left.
Robert Schenck, who was raised in the Jewish faith but later entered the Christian ministry, told the protesters Thursday evening that their actions would be "the only act of love ever extended to the children who died in this death camp today."
The anti-abortionists drove to Press' office following a short service conducted by Mr. Schenck in St. John Maron Church in Amherst to mark the 11th day of the Spring of Life protest.
At Press' office Thursday night, Mr. Schenck spoke through a bullhorn and told his followers that he wanted them to remember the Nazi Holocaust and to "prevent a crime of similar grievous fashion on vulnerable people."
While Operation Rescue has previously identified six local doctors who perform abortions, only Press and Dr. Barnett Slepian, who is also Jewish, were mentioned Thursday night.
By performing abortions, Press and Slepian continue "a horror that brought so much suffering to their own families," said Mr. Schenck, who, with his twin brother, the Rev. Paul H. Schenck, are Assembly of God ministers at New Covenant Tabernacle in the Town of Tonawanda.
"If they are real doctors, they will return to healing instead of killing," Mr. Tucci said.
Mr. Tucci, who repeatedly has identified Operation Rescue as a Christian movement, was asked why a Jewish doctor's office was chosen on an evening that is a Jewish holiday.
"We're not picking on Jews," Mr. Tucci responded Thursday. "He's a baby killer."
During the vigil at the office on Sweet Home Road, a small number of arguments broke out between neighbors and the protesters.
"I think this is ridiculous," said a man who lives off Sweet Home Road. He was there with his daughter but declined to give his name.
"He (Press) isn't doing anything illegal. He's not doing anything women aren't coming to him for."
Mr. Tucci, who happened to be walking by, said to the man: "I wouldn't want a death camp to be in my neighborhood."
"Go mess up your own neighborhood," the man responded.
A few feet away, another neighbor who was riding by on a mountain bike stopped and told an abortion protester that he did not want the United States to become "a religious state."
A pro-life woman said to him: "We want a country that is founded on God's laws."
The man said to her: "It is not a religious issue."
Thursday marked the second time that anti-abortion protesters have targeted a Jewish doctor on a Jewish holiday. In 1988, protesters picketed in front of Slepian's home as he and his family celebrated Hanukkah. Slepian hit one of the protesters with a baseball bat and was arrested. Amherst officials responded by banning picketing in front of residences.