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Parking To Continue In Front Of Women's Clinic

Nick de la Canal / WFAE
Abortion rights activists and opponents regularly occupy the sidewalk in front of A Preferred Women's Health Center on Latrobe Dr.

The city's police and transportation department will not restrict parking outside a women's clinic in east Charlotte, City Manager Marcus Jones said at Monday night's city council meeting. The decision was made following a months-long push by abortion rights activists to ban street parking outside the clinic, to the objections of abortion rights opponents.

At a city council meeting last month, the group Pro Choice Charlotte called on the city to restrict parking in front of A Preferred Women's Health Center, saying dozens of cars parked along both sides of the street reduced sight lines, and oversized signs propped up against cars frequently blew over into the road, creating hazardous driving conditions. They also pointed to abortion rights opponents who they said regularly blocked the street and tried to wave cars down with leaflets.

City Council Member Julie Eiselt said from personal observations, she viewed the road as "dangerous."

"When I went down there, I almost hit somebody because they make you stop," She said to WFAE, "Protesters are coming out and jumping in front of the car, and being very aggressive to people who are trying to drive to that area."

Abortion rights opponents with Cities4Life, Love Life Charlotte, and other nearby groups assailed the parking ban proposal, telling city council they were being unfairly targeted, and that the ban would hinder the operation of a mobile RV equipped with an ultrasound unit they often park in the front of the clinic.

A review of CMPD records finds police are routinely called to Latrobe Drive, sometimes multiple times a day, on a wide array of noise complaints, public disturbance reports, loitering, and other citizen complaints.

In the last three months, CMPD officers were called to the area near the clinic seven times on reports of road blockage and illegally parked vehicles.

Three physical assaults have been reported outside the clinic over the last six months, one on March 25, another on Jan. 20, and a third on Nov. 5. A case of child abuse or neglect was reported at the clinic on Oct. 29.

At last night's city council meeting, City Manager Marcus Jones said CMPD will be increasing its presence at the clinic, and that the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Community Relations team will be working with the activists to train them on "how to exercise their right to free speech in a safe and lawful manner," and "the consequences of unlawful protesting."

Correction: 2:28 p.m. April 25 -- An earlier version of this story misstated the number of assaults reported outside the clinic in the last six months. There were three, not two.

Nick de la Canal is an on air host and reporter covering breaking news, arts and culture, and general assignment stories. His work frequently appears on air and online. Periodically, he tweets: @nickdelacanal