Tag Archives: 190-proof

Bracing for the return of ‘Summer of Mercy’ anti-abortion protests

Twenty-five years after tumultuous mass protests led to nearly 2,700 arrests outside local abortion clinics, Wichita is bracing for a Summer of Mercy.

The Wichita Police Department has spent months putting together a 60-page operational plan that aims at ensuring that everyone is safe.

“I don’t think that we are anticipating an event like 1991,” said Police Capt. Brian White. “However, we have to be prepared for all possibilities and we want to ensure protesters have the ability to exercise their rights to protest, and we also want to make sure that we balance that with the legal right for the businesses to operate.”

The return of the Summer of Mercy, slated for July 16-23, is being organized by Operation Save America, a Dallas-based Christian fundamentalist group led by Rusty Thomas. Group leaders say they hope to complete in 2016 what activists started in 1991.

About 100 to 150 police officers have been assigned to the protests.

“While we have had good lines of communications with protesters, we have to be prepared for the unexpected and that is what we are doing,” White said.

Donna Lippoldt of Operation Save America’s Wichita affiliate did not immediately return a message seeking comment. Pastor Rob Rotola, whose Word of Life Church is hosting the Summer of Mercy, also did not return a call from the Associated Press.

Abortion provider George Tiller and the clinic where he performed abortions had been a target for decades. His clinic was bombed in 1985 and Tiller was shot in both arms in 1992. He was murdred in 2009 at his Wichita church by an abortion opponent. For years afterward, no abortion services were available. Then, in April 2013, the group Trust Women opened the South Wind Women’s Center in Tiller’s former facility.

Director Julie Burkhart said the clinic plans to stay open during this year’s protest, but a decision was made not to do any counter protesting.

“It is a new approach,” Burkhart said. “That our work is here inside and it is out talking to people who would like to have meaningful conversations in the community and not standing out basically wasting energy on folks that will never be able to understand that sometimes some people need or want to access abortion care.”

Instead, abortion rights supporters put together other events, including a rally and reception as part of what they’ve dubbed the #ShowSomeMercy Celebration.

Wisconsin eyes Everclear, strong liquor ban in 2014

Jeff Wielichowski drowned in his family’s pool two summers ago after drinking a mix of Gatorade, Red Bull and Everclear with some friends.

At 190 proof, or 95 percent alcohol, Everclear packs more than twice the punch of the best-selling brands of whiskey, vodka and gin. And at about $18 per bottle, it has long been a popular ingredient in boozy punches served at parties in and around college campuses.

That may change soon in Wisconsin, where Wielichowski’s mother, Luanne Wielichowski, has channeled her grief into pushing state lawmakers to ban the sale of high-potent liquors like Everclear. A bill that would ban the sale of alcohol that’s 190-proof or higher is gathering bipartisan support in the Legislature and could be voted on early next year.

Luanne Wielichowski said she’s hopeful the bill could be passed in 2014.

“God I hope so. I really, really hope so,” she said. “My son’s not coming back. This is for some other kid that hopefully won’t die because they had this lethal concoction in their body.”

Changes to liquor laws are a tough sell in booze-friendly Wisconsin, which has the third-lowest tax on beer nationwide and a strong alcohol lobby. While support is building for the ban, at least one powerful group is aiming to stop it.

The Wisconsin Grocers Association will likely oppose the bill out of concerns that it would open the door to other products being banned, said the group’s president Brandon Scholz.

“While we are concerned about the few incidences of irresponsible use of this product, we have much greater concerns about the slippery slope that is created with the ban of this product,” Scholz said. “What’s next? Ban all alcohol products? Beer and wine as well?”

The influential Tavern League, which represents Wisconsin’s bar owners, isn’t taking a position on the bill, said lobbyist Scott Stenger.

The Wisconsin Wine and Spirit Institute, which represents liquor wholesalers in the state, has not discussed the proposal, said Joel Frank, the group’s lobbyist. Frank is also president of Frank Beverage Group, a liquor wholesaler that distributes in Madison and southwestern Wisconsin. He said sales of high-alcohol content liquors like Everclear are minuscule.

“There would be no economic side effects” if the bill passed, Frank said.

The CEO of Luxco, the St. Louis-based company that makes Everclear, declined to comment on the bill.

“We leave it up to the legislature within the state to reach its own conclusions on what might or might not be in the best interests of its citizens,” said company chairman and CEO Donn Lux in an email.

Fifteen other states, including Minnesota, Michigan and Iowa, already ban high-potent liquors.

Everclear is sold at both 151 proof, or roughly 75 percent alcohol content, and 190 proof, or 95 percent alcohol content. Most popular hard liquors like gin, vodka, and brandy are sold at around 80 proof, or 40 percent alcohol.

Because of its high alcohol content, Everclear is most frequently used as an ingredient in cocktails or punches.

“It has no taste. It’s only purpose is to impair people quickly,” said Julia Sherman, coordinator of the Wisconsin Alcohol Policy Project at the University of Wisconsin Law School. “We don’t need it on the shelves.”

Rep. AndrΘ Jacque, R-De Pere, is sponsoring the bill in the Assembly. He’s working with Rep. Terese Berceau, D-Madison, who circulated an earlier version after being contacted by Wielichowski.

“It’s essentially a poison,” Jacque said of Everclear. “This stuff will mess you up really bad.”

Jacque said he was concerned about young people such as college students and those with less drinking experience being caught off-guard by the potency of Everclear masked by juices or other ingredients.

“It can certainly be very destructive very quickly,” Jacque said.

Frank, the liquor wholesaler, said he understands why some would support a ban, but he said there are also some cocktail recipes that rely on 190 proof alcohol.

“There are legitimate purposes for the product besides what you and I would conceive of as the social ills,” Frank said.

Everclear is described on Luxco’s website as having “tremendous brand recognition and a loyal, near cult-status, following.”

Luanne Wielichowski said she hopes that through her efforts, she will help keep other parents from going through the grief she’s endured since her son died.

“My life is pretty much been in pain ever since,” she said.