A pair of anti-abortion protesters surrendered Friday to face federal charges for allegedly harassing patients and staff outside reproductive health clinics, including one in Lower Manhattan, over several years.
Bevelyn Beatty Williams, 31 and Edmee Chavannes, 41, both of Ooltewah, Tennessee, were charged with violating the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act, federal prosecutors in New York said on Friday.
“As alleged, the defendants repeatedly attempted — including by using threats, and on at least one occasion, force — to prevent individuals from accessing their legal right to reproductive health services,” U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Damian Williams said in a statement.
The 11-page indictment unsealed Friday in Manhattan federal court alleges that since at least 2019, Williams and Chavannes partook in a multiyear campaign to harass people seeking reproductive healthcare at clinics in New York and several other states including Florida, Tennessee, and Georgia.
Prosecutors allege that over the course of two consecutive days in June 2020, Williams and Chavannes used force and threats to block patients and providers from entering a clinic in Lower Manhattan. At one point, Williams pressed her body against the door of the clinic as a staff member attempted to open it, crushing the staff member’s hand, according to the indictment. In another instance, Chavannes threatened the same staff member, forcing them against metal barricades and yelling within inches of their face, prosecutors said.
Over the course of the two days, the two defendants livestreamed some of their behavior, the indictment states.
“This is going to be a wonderful day. We are going to terrorize this place,” Williams said during a livestream, according to the indictment.
“We’re standing here, so I guess no women will be coming in for abortions today. It’s a warzone,” Wiliams said in a different live video.
They were back at it in August, sneaking into several clinics in Brooklyn and harassing staff there, according to the indictment.
The two protesters have made headlines for their antics in the last couple of years. In 2020 years for splashing paint on a Black Lives Matter mural. Last year, they were sued by New York State Attorney General Letitia James for harassing women outside a Planned Parenthood clinic on Bleeker St. in Noho. They later settled that suit, agreeing to stay outside the “buffer zone” around the clinic.
Both are charged with conspiracy to violate the FACE Act, which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison. Williams is also charged with violating the FACE Act through force resulting in bodily harm, which carries a maximum of 10 years in prison.
Attorneys for Williams and Chavannes were not immediately reachable for comment.