This afternoon, the ACLU of Southern California faxed a second demand letter to El Monte Police Chief Wayne Clayton calling for the El Monte Police Department to ensure the safety of those seeking services at the Family Planning Medical Center located at 11046 Valley Mall Boulevard in El Monte. The ACLU sent its first letter on July 16 after an ACLU member and clinic escort witnessed attacks against women entering the clinic.
Since March, groups including the National Organization of Women and the League of Women Voters have contacted the El Monte Police Department demanding that the department ensure the safety of patients. None of the letters or other communications have been answered.
ACLU/SC attorney Taylor Flynn, who sent today's letter, said that unless the police chief responds and directs his officers to defend those seeking services at the clinic, the ACLU will be forced to take legal action. The text of the letter follows:
"The ACLU Foundation of Southern California ("ACLU") is writing again to express its grave concern about the repeated assaults and batteries against women seeking access to the Family Planning Medical Center ("Center") at 11046 " Valley Mall Boulevard in El Monte. We are particularly concerned about the El Monte Police Department's ("Department") failure to respond to this urgent situation despite repeated written requests from several organizations, including the League of Women Voters, the National Organization of Women, and the ACLU. In our July 16th letter to you, the ACLU detailed the actions of demonstrators at the Center, set forth the federal law which criminalizes and provides civil damages for the very type of actions described, and requested assurance from the Department that it would ensure the safety of all concerned as required by the Federal Access to Clinic Entrances Act of 1994, 18 U.S.C. ﾌ_ 248 ("FACE"). We received no response. On Saturday, August 1st, yet another woman was reportedly assaulted by a protester a woman who apparently tried to file a complaint with your Department and was refused.
"While the ACLU is committed to guaranteeing First Amendment rights of free expression, the constitutionally recognized right to choose as well as a woman's safety and thd by the very entity entrusted with assuring their safety, the police. On August 1, 1998, demonstrators reportedly blocked a woman from entering the Center and grabbed her. This is a clear example of a violation of the federal law known as FACE, as well as of the California laws which make battery a crime. After being called, three officers from your Department apparently arrived and refused to take a complaint which the woman requested to file. Moreover, the officers reportedly refused to review three similar written complaints which had taken place in the past two weeks. Particularly disturbing is the report that, during the time the woman was attempting to file her complaint, one officer left to take a phone call and upon his return stated to his fellow officers, "It was Clayton."
"The El Monte Police Department has had more than enough warning, over a period of many months, that both federal and state law explicitly protect the access of women, their escorts, and employees to abortion clinics. The Department has likewise been informed, on numerous occasions and by various sources, that Center protestors have been assaulting women and violating federal and state law. As you know, the Department is charged with the non-discriminatory enforcement of all laws and with the protection of the safety of all persons. The Department is not free to pick and choose which laws to enforce, which complaints to accept, or which persons to protect.
"Given the urgency of the situation, the ACLU expects that the Department will take immediate steps to guarantee safe access to the Center by providing protection for the staff, escorts and women who enter the Clinic and by thoroughly investigating the complaints made by those attempting to enter the Center, including all such complaints brought to the Department's attention in the past several months. If these actions which require nothing more than carrying out federal and state law are not implemented at once, we will have no choice but to take appropriate legal action. Please contact me tomorrow, August 5, 1998 to discuss this matter. Thank you very much for your cooperation."