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Reading The Pictures: Tiller and the Silencers

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2009-06-01-TillerTrialMarch09.jpg

"We are extremely disappointed" with the verdict, said the Rev. Patrick Mahoney of the Christian Defense Coalition and former national spokesman for Operation Rescue. "But we're thrilled that it even came to trial. This will not stop us at all."


Indeed, on the same day Tiller was acquitted, the Board of Healing Arts announced that it was filing an 11-count administrative case against him, which could result in the suspension or revocation of his license. He is accused of breaking the same law -- with some of the same patients -- that he was found not guilty of breaking on Friday.

from: Doctor acquitted by Kansas jury in late-term abortion trial (LAT)

What is important to emphasize regarding the murder of Dr. Tiller is that this situation was heading for a bad end.

After years of threats and attacks, Tiller faced a nuisance trial in March concocted by anti-abortion activists attempting to shut him down for allegedly improperly obtaining second opinions. Wackos from Operation Rescue packed the court room and demonstrated outside, and were furious when Tiller was vindicated in a jury deliberation that lasted less than an hour. As you see from the quote above, they planned to immediately go at him again, the escalating pressure also marked by vandalization of Tiller's clinic in May.

Of course, any number of sites are documenting this story. For our purposes, though, I'm interested in the pictures that ran on the newswire during the March trial, the image above being one. The photo was taken March 23, 2009 outside the courthouse in Wichita.

Of course, these protests by now bear a common signature with the tape over the mouth, the standing in silence, the reading of the bible. Calling it out, I might add, I in no way challenge the right to demonstrate this way. Still, with the news that Tiller's murderer may have been involved with Operation Rescue, and understanding that the group and its leadership did everything it could to harass, intimidate and, yes, terrorize the doctor and his patients, I will not look at these protests the same way again.

In their sanctimony and instigation of hate, in the standing as an echo of victimization, in the tape over the mouth as the symbolic silencing of the unborn, it is this action I -- and I'm sure, many others too -- will now associate with the snuffing out of Tiller's life.

For more visual politics, visit BAGnewsNotes.com (and follow us on Twitter).

(image: Joe Stumpe/AFP. caption: Abortion opponents hold a silent protest outside the courthouse on March 23, 2009 in Wichita, Kansas, where George Tiller faces criminal charges in a case which activists on both side of the decades-long battle over abortion rights say is intended to send a chill through the medical community. One of the few doctors who still performs late-term abortions in the United States, Tiller has been picketed, bombed and shot in the arms. He has been demonized by abortion opponents who regularly protest outside his clinic, located just off a busy highway that runs through Wichita.)

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