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Tiller is one of a handful of abortion doctors in the country who perform late-term abortions, serving pregnant women who have cancer and need chemotherapy, women whose babies are extremely unhealthy and expected to be stillborn or die soon after birth. The special practice drew notoriety among abortion foes. A bomb exploded in Tiller's clinic in 1986, causing $100,000 worth of damage. Tiller draped a hand-lettered sign over the building that read "Hell, no. We won't go!" No one was ever arrested.
In the spring of 1991, Christian radio stations began promoting the Wichita rescue nationally. Anti-abortion newsletters did the same.
"Everybody knew they were coming," says Bowman, Tiller's spokeswoman at the time. "The police met with Dr. Tiller and practically begged him to close for that week."
Mashburn says their hopes were modest. If they got a couple hundred people from out of town and 300 or so locals, they could claim success. "We were thinking there'd be 100 or 200 people come in from out of town," he says.
Thousands arrived, overflowing the Holiday Inn conference center for nightly rallies and jamming the sidewalks and streets around the city's three abortion clinics. Closing the clinics didn't discourage the protesters -- it emboldened them. "If Christians go to the streets, the abortions stop," Mashburn says.
The week ended, but the rescue didn't.
"At the end of that week, they announced they had officially closed the clinic forever," Bowman says. "They were going to stay forever."
The Summer of Mercy dragged on for six weeks after its July 15 start. Daily, protesters marched and police made arrests -- about 2,700 total.
Brown was among them. Wichita police records show that Brown was arrested five times during the first week-and-a-half of the gathering, each time for vagrancy and loitering outside Tiller's clinic at 5107 East Kellogg. He was arrested at 1:35 p.m. the first Tuesday, at just after midnight the following morning, at 8:07 a.m. on Friday, at 7:27 a.m. the next Monday and at 7 a.m. on the second Tuesday.
When other protesters left Wichita to return home, Brown stayed. "He just blended right into Wichita," Mashburn says.
Brown was one of the people keeping the Summer of Mercy alive. He organized Godarchy Productions, which brought in Christian rock bands and hosted a daily phone recording protesters could call for resolve-strengthening messages and to find out where the next big gathering would be.
"The god-awful line," Bowman calls it. "He would say things on there, everything from who was going to hell and God's wrath and all of that kind of stuff.... Other times he got very personal. It always had a tone of a kind of viciousness about it. There was never any doubt he was out to intimidate people. He was scary. He was a scary person."
Not content to limit the campaign to the streets around Tiller's clinic, Brown took the effort into Wichita's neighborhoods, including Bowman's block of duplexes and houses near McConnell Air Force Base. Mashburn was the man in the wheelchair outside Bowman's house.