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See the latest news and updates about COVID-19 and its impact on the Charlotte region, the Carolinas and beyond.

Charlotte Abortion Clinic Protesters Cited With Violating Order Prohibiting Large Gatherings

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A Preferred Women's Health Center executive director Calla Hales tweeted photos of protesters being arrested outside her clinic for violating the stay-at-home order.

Police issued a dozen citations and made eight arrests outside a women’s clinic in southeast Charlotte Saturday after they say protesters were violating North Carolina's statewide order banning mass gatherings amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg police said about 50 people were congregating outside A Preferred Women's Health Center of Charlotte on Latrobe Drive. The gathering was determined to be in violation of the mass gathering directive in the state stay-at-home order.

Gatherings of more than 10 people are not permitted under the order issued by Gov. Roy Cooper.

CMPD says it asked for compliance, but 12 people refused to leave and were issued citations for violation of emergency prohibitions and restrictions. Eight people were arrested for refusing to leave.

Among those arrested was David Benham, a well-known conservative activist and real estate entrepreneur and who nearly had a reality show on HGTV with his twin brother, Jason, before it was scrapped amid a controversy over their views on abortion and homosexuality.

The brothers are affiliated with the anti-abortion group Love Life, which often stages protests at women’s clinics around North Carolina. The group’s founder was charged twice last week outside a clinic in Greensboro and charged with violating that city’s stay-at-home order. The group has since filed a federal lawsuit, alleging violation of their First Amendment rights. The group has also argued it should be considered essential, because it is a religious non-profit offering social services.

Calla Hales, executive director of A Preferred Women's Health Center, has been tweeting that protesters have been violating the order and social distancing guidance to stay six feet apart despite the coronavirus outbreak.

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Jodie Valade has been a Digital News and Engagement Editor for WFAE since 2019. Since moving to Charlotte in 2015, she has worked as a digital content producer for NASCAR.com and a freelance writer for publications ranging from Charlotte magazine to The Athletic to The Washington Post and New York Times. Before that, Jodie was an award-winning sports features and enterprise reporter at The Plain Dealer in Cleveland, Ohio. She also worked at The Dallas Morning News covering the Dallas Mavericks — where she became Mark Cuban's lifelong email pen pal — and at The Kansas City Star. She has a Bachelor of Science in Journalism from Northwestern University and a Master of Education from John Carroll University. She is originally from Rochester Hills, Michigan.
Nick de la Canal is a reporter for WFAE covering breaking news, arts and culture, and general assignment stories. His work frequently appears on air and online. Periodically, he tweets: @nickdelacanal