A Citywide Buffer Zone

It’s not just the medical clinic that needs a buffer zone… this whole city could use a buffer zone.

We recently lost two conventions that we wanted because of Kentucky’s new anti-LGBTQ law, and, instead, we got one that we didn’t — a national convention that celebrates the intolerant, and is anti-women and on the radical-religious right. Might as well invite the Bowling Green Daily News editorial board… although our “smog, concrete, crime and noise congestion” are clearly too “elitist” for them.

Louisville looks like it is at a pivotal, perilous juncture, where, instead of attracting valuable conventions, we will continue to see groups disrupting our community and straining its resources. This reflects how Gov. Matt Bevin is taking our state in the wrong direction.

For the record, it turns out that Mayor Greg Fischer wasn’t lying when he said the city lost two conventions because of the travel ban California has placed on state-funded trips. According to latest reports, the ban — rather, the Republican religious expression law that led to the ban — has cost the local economy $2 million.

Meanwhile, Operation Save America, a national convention of religious, anti-health-freedom crusaders, has decided that Louisville is its latest battleground. Who knows how much we will spend in police overtime to keep these nuts from harassing innocent people. But hey, I’m sure this group will more than make up for the travel-ban losses by patronizing local restaurants, bars and clubs. No?

The problem isn’t that this group is protesting abortion — it is fully within its rights to peaceably assemble and protest abortion. The problem is, these protesters are bad protesters… peaceable assembly would be an improvement. Instead, they’re bringing disruption, intolerance and fear.

To be sure, all successful marches and peaceable protests are disruptive. But they are successful because they rally and win over others who are sympathetic to their causes. They don’t intimidate women by screaming so close in their faces that their voices can be felt.

They don’t publicly broadcast a video of graphic medical procedures — which is what this group plans to do on a JumbTron strapped to a trailer at Louisville Metro Hall.

This group believes it can enforce its will on others through prayer, fearmongering and emotional trauma. It’s an offensive strategy — not a sympathetic one. Nobody will rally to support the cause of a group that harasses and shames women or thinks it’s appropriate to politicize a very personal, private, emotionally-traumatizing event that no woman wants to go through… much less relive on a JumboTron in downtown Louisville.

This group won’t gain supporters by bringing fear to our streets. Instead, it reminds us of other zealous, religious groups who have committed violence throughout history. Their protesting tactics are terrifying. They are designed to instill fear in the women trying to get to their physicians, as well as in the volunteer escorts who bravely walk them into the clinic, shielding them from the protesters’ harassment.

And what about the other visitors here for other conventions downtown, events at the KFC Yum Center and others just looking to eat, drink and enjoy Louisville this weekend? They also will feel threatened.

This is why a heavy police presence will be needed throughout the week-long convention. This is why a federal court has granted an emergency buffer zone around the clinic, preventing the protesters from blocking access or harassing its visitors.

But this is what we can expect in a state led by Bevin. When personal, religious ideology is the priority of the head of state and the governing party in power, inevitably it will be reflected in the people attracted to the state — the NRA convention and Trump rallies — the kind of events that require police to ensure the safety of the community.

In this case, Kentucky and its leaders are driving away the types of conventions and visitors who would add value to Louisville, and attracting the ones that will drain resources from the city and terrorize its residents.

All visitors are welcome here. But when their purpose is to disrupt our compassionate and accepting community, we’d just as soon extend a buffer zone to keep them out of the city.

They can go to Bowling Green.