Last edited: November 23, 2003

Gay Community Warned of Extremist Group's Plans, July 11, 2003

By Newscenter Staff

CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINAŚPolice in Charlotte, North Carolina have issued warnings to the gay community, abortion clinics and Islamic centers about a religious extremist group that is planning eight days of protests in the city.

The group, called Operation Save America says it expects hundreds of its members at the demonstrations. OSA has made block bookings for rooms at a local Days Inn, and even though the leader of the group says it is non violent, police say minority groups should be on the lookout for suspicious packages and should stay clear of the demonstrators.

The protests are slated to begin on Saturday.

Operation Save America began in Dallas, Texas but moved to Concord, North Carolina over the past year.  Its leader, Philip "Flip" Benham says the protestors will demonstrate in front of abortion clinics on Monday, the Metropolitan Community Church on Tuesday and at area mosques later in the week.

Benham says the July 18 protest at the MCC will feature nine caskets, one for each of the nine Supreme Court justices who ruled in favor of overturning Texas sodomy law.

Although Benham says he denounces violence his confrontational rhetoric has raised concerns he could incite a riot.

In May, Benham attended Charlotte's Pride festival and screamed throughout a mass commitment ceremony for about a dozen gay couples.

He was arrested Saturday for trespassing in front of a southwest Charlotte abortion clinic, when he stepped over a line that marked where protesters were allowed to stand. He had the option of posting $500 bond but decided to stay in jail until his court date. He is expected to be out of jail in time for the protests.

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