A man accused of removing signs at an abortion clinic in Metairie, Louisiana, was arrested last Thursday and charged with committing a hate crime.
William Kennedy, 27, is accused of removing signs from the Causeway Medical Clinic, which is within the greater New Orleans metropolitan area, reported the New Orleans Times-Picayune. The arrest report states surveillance footage shows Kennedy pulling the metal lettering off of the clinic in the early morning hours of August 1.
Kennedy was arrested by Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s deputies at his home on August 6, and released on a $10,000 bond on August 7. Policed charged him with simple criminal damage to property and with committing a hate crime. If convicted of both, he could be sentenced to up to six months in prison and fined up to $500.
An employee of the clinic said that on the video surveillance footage, Kennedy “looked like a really angry young man.” The employee spoke to the New Orleans Advocate but declined to give her name or position at the clinic. “He just jumped around and really looked angry,” she told the Advocate. “He actually scared me.”
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The clinic employee added that Kennedy had been accused of pulling down a sign on another side of the clinic in May. “Because he’d been by twice, next time I was afraid that he would come while we were all here,” the employee said.
The employee did not recognize Kennedy as one of the anti-choice protesters who regularly target the clinic.
Kennedy was arrested just days after an unidentified person poured and ignited gasoline on a recently laid foundation and a security guard’s car early Saturday morning at the construction site of the Planned Parenthood facility in New Orleans.
Planned Parenthood Louisiana issued a statement that it is working with the New Orleans Police Department and federal law enforcement to investigate the arson attack.
The Louisiana hate crimes law bans offenses against persons for reasons including race, age, gender, religion, creed, disability, or sexual orientation. It is also illegal to commit a crime against a person and property “because of actual or perceived membership or service in, or employment with, an organization.”
State law defines “an organization” as corporations, companies, partnerships, or associations.
Katherine Mattes, a criminal law professor at Tulane University Law School, told the New Orleans Times-Picayune that the law can apply to crimes based on the victim’s personal or professional associations. “The law enhances punishment for someone who targets a victim because of the victim’s association with a certain group of people, in this case, likely those providing abortion services,” Mattes said.
A report released in February found that threats of harassment, intimidation, and violence against abortion providers have doubled since 2010. Reproductive rights advocates have raised concerns that legislative attacks by anti-choice lawmakers have emboldened radical anti-choice activists.