FARGO – Dressed in a fake beard, white robe and plastic crown of thorns, Nik Severson staged a counterprotest Sunday to a group of anti-abortion activists protesting at the Red River Women’s Clinic in downtown Fargo.
But at around 1:15 p.m., when a passerby sympathetic to the protesters’ cause spit on Severson, he threw the man to the ground, breaking the man’s glasses and injuring his knee in the process.
Severson, who admitted to the scuffle, said he did a “judo throw, like a leg sweep,” on Tyson Kuznia, who also later admitted to spitting on Severson.
Severson shouted at protesters, using a blowhorn at times, sang songs like “99 Bottles of Beer” and carried a sign that read “Should’ve been aborted,” with a red arrow pointed at the protesters.
Two officers with the Fargo Police Department responded to the clinic at 512 1st Ave. N. They didn’t arrest Severson or Kuznia, but told Kuznia that charges would be filed to the city attorney’s office, he said.
Severson said he was giving them “a taste of their own medicine.”
“There’s not really a motive, I just don’t like people using God to shame women,” Severson said.
Severson has staged previous counterprotests outside the clinic, but Sunday’s was the first where he dressed as Jesus, he said.
Asked his views on abortion, Severson said he’s “not a woman, so I don’t have a stance on that.”
Anti-abortion protesters previously said they felt antagonized by Severson. A Forum News Service article on their reaction caught the attention of Jezebel, a popular Gawker Media blog.
Writer Anna Merlan noted that Bartholomew Schumacher, an anti-abortion protester quoted in the Forum News Service story, had been charged in 2010 with terrorizing and gross sexual imposition. He pleaded guilty to those charges in 2011, according to Cass County court records.
Kuznia said he was walking by when he saw Severson’s actions.
“It was pretty obvious that it was meant to be both slanderous and intentionally rude towards the protesters,” Kuznia said. “I wasn’t intending on starting a fight but I guess I probably provocated one, but in my opinion no more than he was, so quite frankly, I think we’re both very guilty.”
A protester at the clinic, Cory Jones, said Severson’s actions won’t stop the group’s presence.
“It doesn’t deter us, it makes us stronger because I think we have more unity and as you notice a busload of people just came up to stand up for us and our thoughts and what our church believes in,” Jones said.
An officer leaving the scene told protesters to call police if Severson again used the blowhorn.
According to Fargo city ordinance, unlawful noise may constitute using “any horn, bell or other noise-making device” except for burglar alarms or emergency warning devices.
The Red River Women’s Clinic is the only clinic in North Dakota that provides abortions.