Tiller remembered at D.C. vigil

A spontaneous Twitter-organized vigil for Dr. George Tiller not far from the White House draws about 100 people.

Published June 1, 2009 2:32AM (EDT)

WASHINGTON -- About 100 people got together tonight for a candlelight vigil in memory of Dr. George Tiller, organized via Twitter a few hours before it started.

After hearing of Tiller's murder, Tanya Tarr, who works in the labor movement, put out a call for D.C. residents to join her in Dupont Circle, less than a mile from the White House. She posted her first message at around 5 p.m., four hours before the vigil started. (Various liberal bloggers, including the Daily Kos' Markos Moulitsas and Firedoglake's Jane Hamsher, passed the word on to their Twitter followers as well.)

"It is outrageous that a 'pro-life' movement would kill someone in their church," Tarr told me as people walked into the park to light candles in Tiller's memory. Because of the short notice, Tarr passed out leftover Hanukah candles, with foil cupcake wrappers to catch melting wax.

The crowd stood quietly lighting candles and talking; there were no counter-protesters. The Rev. Mark Thompson, an assistant minister at Israel Baptist Church in northeast Washington and the host of a satellite radio show, "Make It Plain" on Sirius Left, gave a brief, non-denominational prayer after a few minutes. He said he hoped he could help "provide an alternative to some of the hate speech we've been hearing that probably helped incite this violence." After Thompson spoke, Tarr led a quick cheer for some staff members of the National Abortion Federation who were in the crowd -- it's the professional organization for abortion providers.

For a spontaneous gathering organized almost entirely by Internet word-of-mouth, the turnout was pretty impressive. (A more formal vigil, organized by several pro-choice groups, will be held outside the White House on Monday night.) But the fact that the gathering was needed only underscored the insanity of Tiller's murder; there's no reason someone should become a target of such hatred and violence for doing their job. At least for a night, before a week that will, no doubt, see the shooting become the center of a political firestorm, the vigil helped keep the focus on Tiller, and on his family's loss.

By Mike Madden

Mike Madden is Salon's Washington correspondent. A complete listing of his articles is here. Follow him on Twitter here.

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