WASHINGTON -- Police arrested 360 anti-abortion demonstrators yesterday who tried vainly to shut two abortion clinics during the first of two days of protests planned in the capital by groups on both sides of the abortion issue.
Protesters were led by Randall A. Terry, director of Operation Rescue, a national anti-abortion group whose members said yesterday that they were rescuing babies from death.
The effect of the protest was mainly symbolic. Police prevented the demonstrators from blocking doors of the Washington Surgi-Clinic and another site a few blocks away. Those arrested were given misdemeanor citations for crossing police lines and released later in the day.
More than 100 abortion-rights supporters tried to assist police by locking arms and forming a line around two sides of the Surgi-Clinic. There was no violence.
Mr. Terry, who directed blockades of Wichita, Kan., clinics last summer in violation of a federal court order, was not arrested. He said his group would try today to block one or more additional clinics among the 38 in the Washington area, but he would not identify them.
Operation Rescue members said they were encouraged by the Supreme Court's decision yesterday to review a Pennsylvania law restricting a woman's right to have an abortion.
"Roe is going down," Mr. Terry told the crowd, referring to the Supreme Court's 1973 Roe vs. Wade ruling that established a constitutional right to abortion.
Rallies by both sides are scheduled in the capital today to mark the 19th anniversary of the Roe decision.
The National Right to Life Committee will sponsor its annual March for Life beginning on the Mall and proceeding to the steps of the Supreme Court. President Bush is scheduled to address the group over an amplified telephone hookup at the beginning of the march.
The National Abortion Rights Action League will hold a rally a block away from the Right to Life group on the Mall.