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Helmut Schmidt, Published May 02 2012

VIDEO: Fargo elementary students shaken up by abortion protest images

FARGO – Some Clara Barton Hawthorne Elementary School children were reportedly traumatized Wednesday by seeing graphic posters displayed by anti-abortion protesters at the corner of 25th Street South and 13th Avenue.

About 50 fourth- and fifth-graders were on the bus at 12:30 p.m. coming back from a choir tour, school district Superintendent Rick Buresh said.

While many of the students were playing a game, a number of the students still saw the protest, which is part of the States of Refuge campaign tour, which includes members of the Milwaukee-based Missionaries to the Preborn.

Brenda Dellaneva, a chaperone for the Fargo school trip, said the bus was returning the children from a celebratory lunch at the mall when she saw posters lining the road that showed bloody, mutilated fetuses.

“It was just so graphic … Oh, my lord, it was horrible,” she said.

Dellaneva said it was “very, very disturbing” for the elementary students.

“I was trying to explain to the kids why these people have these signs out. It was nothing but crying and wanting to go home. One little girl threw up.”

“It was wrong where they did it,” Dellaneva said, adding that there are several elementary schools and a middle school in the area.

Buresh said several students talked with their teachers or the school counselor at the school.

Initial reports from school officials Wednesday indicated some children left the school early because of the incident, though a School District spokeswoman told The Forum later in the day that the school’s principal said no children had left early.

The images shown by the protesters along busy Fargo roads and at the Red River Women’s Clinic on Tuesday and Wednesday are pasted on boards about four feet wide and five feet high.

Images included a crushed head held by a forceps; in another, a fetus appears ripped apart; and a third showed a yellowed fetus with gashes.

The images were paired with sayings such as: “Homeland security? They’re forgetting something,” and “God Bless America?”

Buresh said the report he got from Clara Barton Principal Tanya Wrigley-Lingle is the protesters did not approach the bus or try to get on. Rather, it appears the incident was a chance encounter at the stoplight.

Fargo police Lt. Joel Vettel said the department received no formal complaints about the protest.

He said the group targeted busy intersections in the city at the morning, noon and evening drive times for their protests.

“We’ve been in communication with them since we found out they were coming to town. We make contact with groups that we feel that might cause some concerns for the public,” Vettel said.

“We continue to monitor their activities for their safety and the safety of the community,” Vettel said.

The protesters will be in Bismarck on Wednesday, followed by Williston and Billings, Mont., said Cal Zastrow of Billings, who was organizing Wednesday’s late afternoon protest at 25th Street South and 32nd Avenue.

Zastrow says the group makes no apology for the graphic nature of the images, but they don’t deliberately target children for their message.

“Both TV stations showed the aborted baby signs,” he told another protester. “Even if they call us kooks and idiots, we still win.”

Zastrow, who passed out literature to cars waiting at the stoplight along 25th Street, said he’s had many people thank him.

“Every adult and every teen in North Dakota needs to see a picture of an aborted baby until the killing stops,” he said.

Jason Storms, leader of the Missionaries to the Preborn, said the group wants to see the Red River Women’s Clinic, which provides abortions in this region, shut down.

“We’d like to see North Dakota be the first abortion-free state in our country,” Storms said.

Most Americans don’t know what the result of an abortion looks like, Storms said.

“If we’re not comfortable with these images, it should tell us something about what we tolerate in our community,” he said.

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Readers can reach Forum reporter Helmut Schmidt at (701) 241-5583