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(NEW YORK) — Two protesters from Tennessee surrendered Friday to face federal charges in New York for routinely harassing women entering a Planned Parenthood clinic on Manhattan’s Bleecker Street.
Bevelyn Beatty Williams, 31, and Edmee Chavannes, 41, violated the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act with a multiyear campaign to interfere with women who were seeking or providing lawful reproductive care, federal prosecutors said.
The clinic is regularly the scene of abortion-related protests, but Williams and Chavannes used force, threats of force and physical obstruction to impede women from entering the clinic since at least 2019, the indictment said.
“This office will remain committed to ensuring that healthcare facilities, their staff, and those seeking to obtain reproductive health services can continue to do so without unlawful interference,” U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said in a statement.
On consecutive days in June 2020 — during the coronavirus pandemic — Williams and Chavannes used force against patients and staff members to keep them from going inside the clinic, the indictment said, quoting from a livestreamed video on Williams’ Facebook page: “This is going to be a wonderful day. We are going to terrorize this place.”
In one instance, Williams pressed her body against the patient entrance door, crushing a staff member’s hand. In another instance, Chavannes forced a woman against a metal barricade and screamed in her face, according to the indictment.
The two appeared briefly in Tennessee before they are transferred to New York for prosecution.
They are each charged with conspiracy to violate the FACE Act, which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison. Williams faces an additional charge of violating the FACE Act through force, which carries up to 10 years.
The two protesters were named in a civil lawsuit filed in February 2021 by New York Attorney General Letitia James. James announced in April 2021 that her office had come to an agreement with the two women to stay outside the buffer zone or pay a $5,000 fine if they broke the agreement.
Prosecutors said the two have sought to harass women at reproductive health care clinics in Atlanta, where they stood inside the vestibule and yelled threatening comments at patients; Brooklyn, New York; and Fort Myers, Florida. Chavannes and Williams were also arrested for trespassing at a Planned Parenthood during an anti-abortion protest in Nashville, Tennessee, in July.
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