BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Since the recent massacre in Paris, conservative politicians have been ginning up fear of a terrorist attack in the homeland. They were right. On Friday, November 27, terrorism once again hit the U.S., claiming the lives of one police officer and two civilians, and injuring nine others during an attack at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs, Colorado. The gunman, who surrendered to police, has been identified as Robert Lewis Dear Jr., 57, who was born in Charleston, South Carolina, previously lived in North Carolina, and moved into a white trailer “on a “snow-covered patch of land in a hamlet [Hartsel, Colorado] ringed by the Rocky Mountains,” The New York Times reported.
He may have acted alone, and he may have mental health issues, but make no mistake, the gunman who attacked the Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs is definitely part of a network; a network that has been responsible for murdering abortion providers and staff members, the bombing of clinics, and the terrorizing of clinic patients.
Although Dear’s motivation is not yet completely clear, here’s what we do know.
Since surreptitious and highly edited videos were released months ago that purported to show Planned Parenthood involved in the illegal selling of fetal tissue for financial gain – a charge that has not been substantiated -- anti-abortion activists and politicians have been gunning for Planned Parenthood. Some Republican Party presidential candidates have made defunding Planned Parenthood the hub of their political platforms. Congress called in the head of Planned Parenthood and, in a show-trial atmosphere, GOP politicians raked her over the coals. One of former House Speaker John Boehner’s last gifts to Congress was the appointment of a special committee to investigate Planned Parenthood, hearings that are supposed to commence in the near future.
Dear is being held without bond on at the El Paso County Criminal Justice Center. The New York Daily News reported that according to a North Carolina neighbor, Dear had “lived in a cabin without electricity or running water deep in the North Carolina mountains.” He “mostly kept to himself, said James Russell, who lived close to Dear on Black Mountain. … but when [he] did speak, he was scatter-brained and rambled.”
According to The New York Times, Dear has had periodic “brushes with the law and neighbors and relatives,” including reported incidents of domestic violence; hiding in the bushes and peering into a neighbor’s house; and, according to The Times, posting an online personal ad seeking “partners fort sadomasochistic sex.”
During his interview with officials, it has been reported that amongst other things, he uttered the words “no more baby parts,” which seems to be a reference to the above mentioned videos that unleashed the most recent anti-abortion campaigns against Planned Parenthood.
The Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood clinic, like many clinics across the country, has been the target of anti-abortion protesters for quite some time. After the recent videos were released, the clinic faced fairly large demonstrations during the summer. Clinic officials were concerned enough about security that it created a “security room” with a supply of bulletproof vests.
“We don’t yet know the full circumstances and motives behind this criminal action, and we don’t yet know if Planned Parenthood was in fact the target of this attack,” Vicki Cowart, president of Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, said in a statement. “We share the concerns of many Americans that extremists are creating a poisonous environment that feeds domestic terrorism in this country. We will never back away from providing care in a safe, supportive environment that millions of people rely on and trust.”
The New York Times pointed out that “Since abortion became legal nationally, with the Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade in 1973, many abortion clinics and staff members across the country have been subjected to harassment including death and bomb threats, and hundreds of acts of violence including arson, bombings and assaults and eight murders, according to figures compiled by the Naral Pro-Choice America Foundation.”
As of Friday night, Think Progress pointed out that “none of the 14 Republican candidates had mentioned the shooting.” By Saturday morning, however, “Sen. Ted Cruz tweeted that he was praying for the victims and emergency responders involved in the standoff.”
I suspect that eventually all the GOP presidential candidates will express sorrow for the victims, praise the first responders, claim it was a mentally ill man acting alone, and will maintain that it is too early to talk about either guns or anti-abortion zealotry. In the immediate aftermath of the shootings, one conservative Republican Party congressman told CNN that he couldn’t say whether the gunman is a domestic terrorist.
Meanwhile, the Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins quickly issued a statement condemning the “violence.” At the same time, Perkins renewed the charge that it was “the target of domestic terrorism inspired by the Southern Poverty Law Center.” If I understand Perkins correctly, he is claiming that a gunman who attacked the Family Research Council (FRC) was inspired by outside forces, in this case the SPLC, who has listed the FRC has a hate group. By Perkins’ own logic, the attack in Colorado Springs and at other abortion clinics could be inspired by the unhinged rhetoric of anti-abortion activists, the grandstanding of Republicans in Congress, and the ginned up campaign by GOP presidential candidates to defund Planned Parenthood.