Pastor Doyle Clark’s Testimony
Atlanta, GA (FR) – When asked about his experiences in an Atlanta jail after being arrested during a pro-life rescue there, Pastor Doyle Clark was reluctant to talk. “I’m not supposed to be telling this story,” he said. “Some parts are very painful.” But, because he knew his testimony would serve the cause of the unborn, Clark shared his story with several reporters after his release in mid-October.
A reluctant hero, 48-year-old Clark went to the Operation Rescue in Atlanta only to observe. He stood in the back line of the crowd to watch the proceedings of the protest. He had received a brochure about Operation Rescue’s activities in the mail, and he was stirred about the pro-life cause.
Clark couldn’t risk arrest, which was a part of Operation Rescue’s strategy, because members of his church were split over his involvement. But when a friend called him about taking a bus to Atlanta just to observe, he decided to go.
“I’m not a hero,” said Clark. “I was standing in the back and they arrested those in the front. Suddenly, I was in the front.” Protestors were crawling under the steel barricade to get to the clinic’s sidewalk, and Clark attempted to follow the crawling crowd when a burly white policeman grabbed his neck. “They were trying to put pressure on certain areas of my neck to make me stand up. I went limp and was so limp that I guess I made the officer angry.”
The policeman missed Clark’s pressure point and, instead, jabbed his thumbs into his ears and clutched his jawbone. “He was trying to force me to get up, and his thumbs kept bearing in and I passed out.” While being dragged to the bus unconscious, his head went smashing into a fire extinguisher. “My back and legs hit all the steel steps. I came to, but felt disoriented, and the officers threw me down the aisle until my head hit the round steel posts. I felt like a freight train had come to stop.”
After throwing him, the officers walked off the bus, and other rescuers laid him on a seat. When the busload of arrested rescuers arrived at the Pre-Trial Detention Center, guards noticed that Clark’s ears were bleeding; he was taken by ambulance to Grady Memorial Hospital’s prison ward. “I didn’t check in, and if anyone called, they wouldn’t have known where I was,” he added.
Clark was then laid on a flat board, his hands were taped, and his feet were strapped, padlocked, and chained. He was then wheeled out. “I was shoved against a wall for five hours with no offers of food or water except at the very end. I demanded to be released. They took X-rays and said nothing was wrong. They took all the apparatus off, wheeled me out, and the doctor said, ‘Get down off the cart and show me you can walk.’ “
Clark took five steps and couldn’t continue. He was then lowered into the police van and he inched his way into it with his hands. The bumpy ride, he said, exacerbated the excruciating pain. When they arrived at the Pre-Trial Detention Center, prison officials ordered him to walk: “It took a long time. I walked about 20 feet in 20 minutes. I turned around when I got to my cell and the guards were gone. I knew I would be in full pain in my lower back. I fell down and cried out for help.”
Clark had a concussion and passed out. “When I came to, a nurse and her helper put a respirator on me to force air down. I was conscious, and could see and hear, but I couldn’t talk and felt a sensation go through my whole body. The nurse said I had turned blue all over. She shouted that I was having a cardiac arrest and cut off my shirt. Then she did CPR to get my heart going.”
Clark admitted that he knew he was dying and felt his spirit leave his body. “I was so happy because I knew I was going to be with the Lord. But she didn’t let me go. She kept saying, ‘Come on, you’re a man of God. You’ve got to live. You’ve got to live.’”
After he regained consciousness, he was returned to Grady Memorial Hospital. Strapped and padlocked on the stretcher, again he was wheeled against a wall for two hours with no offer of food or water. “I finally appealed to a doctor to let me call my wife. He wheeled me to a desk and dialed the number for me.” His wife, Janet, then contacted Operation Rescue headquarters in Atlanta.
“They didn’t know where I was until I called,” Clark continued. “I felt like the prison authorities wanted me to die. It was very unusual.” Rev. Denny Laub was then assigned by Operation Rescue to monitor Clark’s case. For two hours after the phone call, Clark said he underwent tortuous X-rays; nurses twisted his painful back, and an orderly pulled his fingers until all his knuckles had cracked. “I was an orderly for two years while I was in college,” said Clark, “and I knew for a fact that those were not X-rays those nurses were taking.”
At 2:30 a.m. Clark demanded legal counsel. He was wheeled back to the entrance, and the hospital administrator, lawyer and doctor asked him to sign a statement which released them from any liability. “I shook them up because I refused to sign it and began to negotiate with them.”
He was returned to solitary confinement in the Atlanta Pre-Trial Detention Center. “I saw rescuers in other cells and it was really hot. They had jammed in 18 to 20 people in one cell designed for seven to eight prisoners. There was no proper ventilation. I received notes slipped to me which were really encouraging. I was ordered to bond out immediately since I was sick.”
Several prison officials and attorneys visited to ask him to sign a statement. “They asked me, ‘Why will your people risk their lives or get maimed for live or be paralyzed for a publicity stunt?’ “ Clark said he answered while weeping. “First of all, we are not protesting, but we are trying to stop the killing of babies. My body belongs to Jesus. If I live, that’s great. If I die, all the better. But we are not here just for excitement … 15 years ago I was in a position to make a difference, and I deliberately and consciously avoided getting involved. I’m guilty for not getting involved. I’m in repentance. I don’t blame the policemen. But I have a choice to either obey God or man.” The prison officials and attorneys all began weeping and quickly walked out.
During his imprisonment, he was constantly moved from cell to cell. He said it was Palvolvian technique to get the protestors to “break.” Despite the trauma, he said many inmates became Christians through the witness of other protestors. “I was released five days later,” he concluded. “It was a spiritual experience that I will always treasure.