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Annual anti-abortion event draws dozens to busy intersection
Kristen Sisk of Gainesville participated Sunday in the annual silent protest against abortion. Sisk is six months pregnant with a girl she plans to name Cecilia. - photo by SARA GUEVARA

Dozens of people fanned out Sunday afternoon on sidewalks at Jesse Jewell and E.E. Butler parkways, one of Gainesville’s busiest intersections, to demonstrate against abortion.

Demonstrators held up signs to passing traffic, with many motorists responding by honking their horn.

They were participating in Life Chain, an annual event in which participants gather silently along roadways and other public places. The intent is not only to show opposition to abortion but to pray for a peaceful end to the practice.

Many of Gainesville’s participants bowed their heads during the one-hour event. One man, holding a rosary, kneeled in prayer near a Jesse Jewell crosswalk.

Adults and children lined both sides of the streets with signs bearing such messages as “Abortion kills children” and “Jesus forgives and heals.”

“I’m here to help with the pro-life cause that’s going on around the nation at this time,” said Paul Gibbons, who brought his son and daughter.

“It’s just a silent way of getting our message across to everybody ... and we’ll continue on through the years until this horror of abortion comes to an end.”

Please Let Me Live, an anti-abortion ministry in California, held the first Life Chain event in 1987.

Dorothy Butler, the local coordinator, said Sunday marked the 17th year for it in Gainesville. The event is held nationally the first Sunday in October each year.

“Hopefully, by standing united on a street corner, people going by will see the solidarity of those people ... and (it) perhaps might change their idea that a pregnancy is just a mass of cells being produced into a person,” she said.

Butler is the pro-life chairwoman at St. Michael Catholic Church in Gainesville, but “this is a community-based project,” she said. “The other churches in the community have forever been very prominent in encouraging their church members to come and participate in this.”

She said in her years participating in the event, most people passing by show support by giving a thumbs-up.

“We’ve not really had any hecklers or people that have been very opposed, but there again, I find Gainesville to be a prayerful community,” Butler said.

In instructing demonstrators before heading to the streets, she said, “If there are any hecklers or anything negative, just smile back. This is a silent, prayerful demonstration.”

Father Fabio Sotelo, St. Michael’s pastor, led the group in prayer, including a recitation of the Lord’s Prayer, before the event.

“May our voices be heard by the legislators and the leaders ... that we, the children of God, must respect the dignity of human life in all its stages,” he prayed.

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