Abortion rights sign outside Lake View church damaged by stone throwers

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Will Quier was working from home in his Lake View apartment when he heard the sound of women screaming and went to the window to check it out.

“It was two ladies arguing over the panel and how they disagreed,” Quier said.

The sign they challenged with read, “We support abortion on demand with no excuses.”

The message, written in interchangeable plastic letters, was behind a display case and had been on display outside Chicago’s Second Unitarian Church since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade in June.

“One of the women asked a nearby worker sitting in a van to borrow some tools to dismantle the panel. He ignored her. So she grabbed a little metal garden fence out of the ground and hit the glass with it,” Quier said.

“And then they both went and started throwing rocks at the church and I heard shards of glass,” he said.

As the pair walked away, Quier, who had filmed the incident on his phone, shouted, “You crackheads are on video!” prompting the women to turn around several times in an unsuccessful attempt to locate the voice.

Quier, 29, left a voicemail at the church office and later shared the video with church leaders, who shared it with police.

The Reverend Jason Lydon, a church minister, said it was the first time such a thing had happened in the church. He quickly noticed that the plastic letters, which had been scattered around, are back in place to convey the same message.

One of the stones thrown left a fist-sized hole in the image of a bird on a stained glass window that had been part of the church since the 1970s. It was created by a gay worshiper who wanted pass on inclusivity after facing police brutality against gay men in bars in Chicago, Lydon said.

No one was in the church and no one was injured in the incident, which happened shortly before 4 p.m. Wednesday.

“We will not be intimidated by individuals who damage our property,” Lydon said. “We know that pregnant women deserve to have autonomy over their bodies. This act of destruction of property is intended to silence us and sow fear. We will not be afraid and we will not be silent. Abortion access is under attack and we will use our voice to speak out.

The incident attracted national media attention.

Ann Scheidler, president of the Chicago-based Pro Life Action League, an anti-abortion group, denounced the women’s action.

“Vandalism is never acceptable. It’s not the answer to something you disagree with. These ladies should have knocked on the door and asked to speak to the pastor about why they thought the sign was offensive,” Scheidler said.

Lydon agreed when briefed on Scheidler’s position on the incident.

“Yeah. They should have,” Lydon said. “I would have been happy to have a conversation . . . that’s how we approach conflict in our own community.

Church leaders are responding to the incident by holding a “Protest for Reproductive Justice” at noon Sept. 4 at the church, 656 W. Barry Ave.

“It’s sad and infuriating to experience this violent response to our support for women,” said Christy Grant, president of the church’s board of trustees. “Yet in these hot political times, we have chosen to side with love and use our voice for justice.”

After the Supreme Court’s June ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the US Department of Homeland Security warned that abortion providers and judges, as well as churches representing both sides of the issue abortion, faced an increased risk of violence “for weeks”.

Planned Parenthood of Illinois President and CEO Jennifer Welch said the organization has not seen an increase in vandalism or violence since the Supreme Court ruling, but said it there had been an increase in protest activity. Planned Parenthood operates 17 health centers in Illinois, including six that perform in-clinic abortion procedures.

“PPIL condemns any vandalism that affects abortion access to PPIL or any organization that supports reproductive rights,” Welch said. “There is no place for such violent and hateful acts in our community. Vandalism like what happened to the Second Unitarian Church of Chicago accomplishes nothing and only strengthens our resolve to continue providing the crucial reproductive health care people need and deserve in the Illinois and the Midwest.

Lydon estimated that repairs to the church could cost upwards of $1,000. The police are looking for the women.

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