Roe v. Wade v. Fondren

July 11, 2012

Health Care

Rooster’s owner Nathan Glenn says he runs a family restaurant and is aggravated that his customers have to stare at pictures of dead babies every time they bite into a hamburger.

“Their signs are pointed directly at us,” Glenn said, referring to the frequent protesters that picket across the street at Mississippi’s only abortion clinic.

The Jackson Women’s Health Organization has been open for a number of years in Fondren, a shopping and arts district in Jackson’s Woodland Hills neighborhood. The clinic has in recent weeks become a backdrop to the national debate on abortion.

On Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Daniel Jordan extended an injunction blocking a landmark Mississippi state law that could shut the clinic down. Anti-abortion protestors, police and national media have all shown up at the corner of State Street and Fondren Place to take part in the constitutional showdown.

While the neighboring business owners won’t say where they stand personally on the issue (or give their names in most cases), they all agree that they are tired of the politically charged street corner and how it hurts their bottom line.

“You can’t get into politics as a small business owner,” Glenn says. He said he has made a “truce” with most of the protesters. Instead of leaving signs propped up in front of the restaurant, they have to hold them and stand around the corner away from his windows.

Roy McMillan is the face of the anti-abortion protest movement in Fondren and several business owners would just as soon see that face go away.

One businesswoman who wanted to remain nameless said she has seen McMillan harass clinic employees and patients on numerous times, “dog-cussing them… using the N-word” and calling them “baby killers” as they walk down the sidewalk.

“I tripped over that silly little doll,” she said, referring to a McMillan protest prop. “I kicked it out into the middle of State Street.”

Parking is also an issue, she said. One car on Wednesday had been parked all morning in a 15-minute space. “My customers can’t park here,” she said. “I have a family to feed too.” She said many demonstrators block the sidewalks during “silent prayer vigils” and won’t move over for pedestrians.

Another businessman said the signs often block his view of the street when he tries to pull out of his driveway.

Glenn says dealing with the clinic and its detractors has become part of his business strategy since first opening. He saw his first large protest while Rooster’s was under construction and thought it was a local parade being planned.

Today, many of the protesters eat at his restaurant. So do the clinic employees.

“We just ask for some mutual respect. We’re trying to make a living,” Glenn said. “A lot of the protest groups come in and they’re really good. It’s those bad apples that come in and really make it difficult for the community.

“I think it even makes it difficult for some of the other protestors because at that point it’s so grotesque and so over the top. They’re not doing anything but shooting themselves in the foot and they’re not getting any community support.”

In 2009, Jackson police found a suspicious backpack sitting outside the clinic.

State Street was shut down and the bomb squad was called. Fortunately it was a false alarm.

“We got some press out of that,” Glenn said. “Any press is good press as long as a bomb doesn’t go off.”

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About Stephen McDill

Stephen McDill joined the Mississippi Business Journal in 2008 after working in radio and television. He is a graduate of Belhaven University and has won awards for his writing and photojournalism from the Associated Press and Mississippi Press Association.

View all posts by Stephen McDill

3 Responses to “Roe v. Wade v. Fondren”

  1. msu_scrappy Says:

    Good interview Stephen.

    I really like what Mr. Glenn had to say. Very tough subject to discuss as a small business owner, given the sensitivity of the subject, but Mr. Glenn handled it well. He seemed very open and honest in his comments, but kept his comments for the most part to that of a small business owner and in a bigger sense, a community leader, when talking about civic discussion.

    I’ll have to make sure to have a meal at Roosters (I think Mr. Glenn has ties to Basil’s too doesn’t he) and tell him in person I appreciate his willingness to discuss the issue and how he handles it.

  2. James T. McCafferty Says:

    Dear Author of Roe v. Wade v. Fondren Blog Post:

    I was shocked when I read your Jackson Business Blog piece styled “Roe v. Wade v. Fondren” that quoted some unnamed “business woman” as saying she has heard Roy “dog cuss” persons and use the “n-word.”

    I’ve known Roy McMillan and his wife, Beverly, for close to 15 years. I’ve ridden in a car to Chicago and back with Roy, been in his home on numerous occasions, and been on the sidewalk outside abortion clinics with him many, many times. I have never heard him curse anyone and never heard him use any racial slurs. Roy is about the least racist or race-conscious person you could ever meet.

    Roy’s usual companion when he goes out to the clinic is an African American man who has been a close friend of Roy’s for years. Why don’t you ask him if he’s ever heard Roy use a racial slur or “dog cuss” anyone?

    After Katrina, Roy and Beverly took into their home for several weeks an African American family from the New Orleans area. The McMillans did not know them from Adam’s off ox–they just knew they were a family made homeless by the hurricane. Why don’t you ask that family the McMillans sheltered if they ever heard Roy use a racial slur?

    Roy and his wife are among the kindest and most charitable persons I have ever known. By publishing this libel against Roy, you have done a very decent man a grave injustice. You and the anonymous “business woman” owe Mr. McMillan a sincere apology.

    Peace to all,

    James T. McCafferty

  3. Gebre Menfes Kidus Says:

    Talk about people being “desensitized”… they want to eat their hamburgers without having to confront the reality that innocent babies are being killed across the street. Well I have a solution: Close down the damn abortion clinic!

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