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Leader of group arrested for mass gathering says they didn’t violate stay-at-home order

Updated: Apr. 5, 2020 at 8:46 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - The leader of a religious group who was arrested for participating in a mass gathering outside of an abortion clinic on Latrobe Drive Saturday says he was not in violation of the state’s stay-at-home order.

The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department arrested eight people who refused to leave the scene after being cited for violating the stay-at-home order.

Twelve people were cited in total and 13 were charged.

Cities4Life President David Benham was one of those arrested but claims there were not 50 people “gathered” outside of the clinic.

Benham told WBTV that there were only three members from his organization there but that another group was also there praying individually.

“I believe that taking a stand like this is crucial right now because the government does not have unlimited power even in the midst of a really dangerous health crisis,” Benham said.

Benham also claims that his organization is an essential business according to the executive stay-at-home order.

“You see it right there, public charities providing social services are clearly essential,” Benham said.

The Mecklenburg County stay-at-home order states “organizations that provide charitable and social services” are considered essential.

Charlotte for Choice Clinic Escorts President Angela Anders though disputes Benham’s claim. Her volunteer group meets patients outside of the clinic while protestors from Benham’s group provide anti-abortion information.

“That is not their business location,” Anders said. “So I’m not sure how they can determine they’re an essential business when the address in front of Latrobe is not their business location."

Anders’ group recently decided to suspend their activities during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"We thought it was the wisest decision both for our volunteer escorts and for the patients. We certainly wouldn’t have wanted to expose them unknowingly,” Anders said.

Benham says his group will continue showing up at the clinic.

CMPD has yet to release the names of all the people cited and arrested at Latrobe Drive, more than 24 hours after the incident occurred.

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