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Radical mime takes on Ottawa anti-choice protesters

Guerrilla performance activist stages counter-protest outside abortion clinic

Radical mime in action Credit: Noreen Fagan

The religious right has been protesting outside of abortion clinics across Canada and the United States from Sept 22 until Oct 31 as part of The 40 Days of Life campaign.

In Ottawa their target is the Morgentaler Clinic on Bank St, the city’s only private abortion provider. The protesters are peaceful and for the most part (but not always) abide by city bylaw permits that stipulate they remain on the opposite side of the road.

The 40 Days of Life protest will end on Oct 31, when the protesters will pack up their makeshift signs, their fake cribs and their anger to return home and wait for next year’s protest.

But that does not mean the intimidation of women seeking services at the Morgentaler Clinic will end. Each week, a group of older men and women meet up, clutching handmade signs that say, “Morgentaler Clinic is Spark St Mall’s Auschwitz.” With rosaries in their hands, they walk along the sidewalk, past the clinic and around the block, repeating the pattern until the rosary is finished.

On Friday, Oct 15, the group encountered a guerilla performance artist, Jenn Farr, a community activist and pro-choice advocate. Farr, dressed as a “radical mime artist,” launched into a 30-minute street performance expressing her dismay at the anti-choice protest.

“I am just expressing what women going in to have an appointment have said to me. Canadians are proper and we won’t express surprise or disgust in public, because it is not polite. So I am doing it as a mime act — an act of radical miming,” says Farr. “As a mime, I get to show all the emotions that a lot of people have been feeling since these Auschwitz, Holocaust signs started coming out. They are offensive, they are frightening, they are bullying, they are anti-Semitic and they will push into you if they know you are pro-choice.”