More than 100 people packed into New Ark United Church of Christ on Saturday morning to show support for Planned Parenthood and decry what several speakers referred to as “domestic terrorism” at the organization’s Newark clinic last week.
Federal prosecutors have charged an 18-year-old Middletown man they say vandalized the clinic on Delaware Avenue and then threw a Molotov cocktail at the building, causing minor damage Jan. 3. The defendant, Samuel James Gulick, has a history of anti-abortion and alt-right social media posts.
“This was an attack in Newark on Newark,” said State Rep. Paul Baumbach, who organized the rally along with the Rev. Cynthia Robinson, pastor of New Ark UCC.
“Hate came to Newark, but it can't stay here. There is no place for hate, and this is no place for hate,” Baumbach said. “We won't be terrorized. We won't cower.”
He tied the incident to what he called a rise of hate in the United States.
“I'm mad at national leaders who are condoning and setting an inflammatory tone to make America hate again,” he said. “It is not normal, and we must come together to insist that hate is not normal and that acting on anger with violence is un-American and unpatriotic.”
Ruth Lytle-Barnaby, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Delaware, said she “worries greatly” for her employees, noting that they often have protesters yelling violent things at them.
“No other physician’s office has people protesting outside,” Lytle-Barnaby said. “When you go to your allergist, somebody isn’t out there screaming at you for it. When you’re at the urologist, someone’s not yelling at you, so it shouldn’t be like that for us.”
Newark Mayor Jerry Clifton praised local and federal law enforcement agencies for making an arrest within 24 hours of the Molotov cocktail incident and promised that the city and the Newark Police Department would do everything necessary to keep the clinic safe.
“On behalf of the 34,000 people in Newark, I’m sorry this happened to you,” Clifton said, expressing appreciation for those who gathered at the rally. “I think what's beautiful about Newark is the fact we have people that care and we have people where you can have a division of ideas and still come to support that which is right and honorable.”
Attorney General Kathy Jennings called the Jan. 3 incident “truly a small-minded act, cowardice and, in fact, domestic terrorism.”
“I stand with all of you against fear. And all of us are standing strong this morning. But it's not just enough to stand up today. We need to stand up every day,” Jennings said. “Whether it's a criminal attacking a medical clinic, or a political agenda, Planned Parenthood faces threats every day, and we cannot afford to lose.”
State Sen. Laura Sturgeon noted that she used the Newark Planned Parenthood while a student at the University of Delaware and continues to take advantage of the organization’s services.
“I stand with Planned Parenthood today because Planned Parenthood stood with me when I needed it,” Sturgeon said.
Newark Councilwoman Sharon Hughes, too, said Planned Parenthood was “invaluable” to her when she was younger.
“I have the greatest respect for all of the Planned Parenthood facilities. They been attacked and maligned and had outright lies about them and have been subjected to violence and intolerance,” Hughes said. “They have steadfastly remained a part of the community, providing service, and not once even considered pulling out.”
Robinson urged those gathered not to embrace hate, even toward the alleged perpetrator of the Jan. 3 incident.
“One of my first thoughts was, who radicalized this boy?” Robinson said. “Who taught him that he should be fearful of other people's choices regarding their own health care? Who capitalized on that fear and whipped it into anger? Who captured that anger and warped it into hate? Who manipulated that hate and convinced this 18-year-old boy that an act of terrorism was the only way to assuage his suffering?”
Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, and hate leads to suffering, she said.
“We must be willing to not allow hate to take up any space within us that could be used for love,” Robinson said. “And so, if anything about us is to be radicalized, let it be love.”