A city proclamation welcoming the anti-abortion group Operation Save America to the city and recognizing its "outstanding service to the City of New Orleans" was issued in error, according to an email this afternoon by a spokesman for Mayor Mitch Landrieu.
The story originally was broken by Robert Morris of Uptown Messenger, who reported that the group - a renamed version of the controversial 1980s organization Operation Rescue - received an official welcome to the city signed by Landrieu on the same day the group's members interrupted a service at First Unitarian Universalist Church in Uptown New Orleans and picketed the homes of people the group claims provide abortions. In online writings, Operation Save America called the Unitarian church the "synagogue of Satan."
A Change.org petition demanding the city rescind the proclamation congratulating Operation Save America had more than 800 signatures in less than 24 hours, and the story was picked up nationally by the satire-snark political site Wonkette.
In an email this afternoon, Landrieu spokesman Tyler A. Gamble wrote:
It is customary for the City to provide standard proclamations to visiting groups that request them through the City’s web site. To be clear, the City does not endorse extreme or violent tactics, and this proclamation was issued in error. Any group can exercise their constitutional rights, but all of us have a responsibility to do so in a respectful manner. During these events, the NOPD is executing a robust security plan to keep the peace.
Like many governmental bodies,the city of New Orleans hands out ceremonial proclamations and letters of welcome
to both citizens and visitors. Getting welcomed to town is reserved for groups and conventions, but anyone can apply for a ceremonial proclamation, as long as the reason fits in one of the city’s six categories: organizational honors; church anniversaries and pastoral anniversaries; retirements; heroic deeds; a 100th birthday; or “outstanding community service by an individual, group, or organization.” The Operation Save America proclamation seems to have fallen in the last category, as the organization has federal nonprofit status.
Gamble did not reply to questions as to the city's process when it came to vetting groups that ask for proclamations or letters of welcome. An email to Operation Save America regarding the proclamation was not immediately returned.