30 Dec San Francisco Walk for Life Is Pro-Life Movement’s “Selma March”
It was no accident that San Francisco sprouted one of the earliest (1963) organizations specifically to challenge laws prohibiting abortion (The Society for Human Abortion). Dubbed the most liberal county in the country in 2010, the City by the Bay is known for its full embrace of abortion rights. The first West Coast (WC) Walk for Life in 2005 was probably the most combative. Pro-lifers had to walk through a gauntlet of flying debris and obscenities from abortion supporters lining the street. Several city officials including San Francisco’s mayor, city supervisor, district attorney and others stood with the abortion supporters.
That “circle the wagon” mentality by city officials on the issue is still prevalent today and evidenced by the strong actions when these pro life banners went up in the city one month prior to last years WC Walk for Life.
Within a few days, a measure was introduced by a member of the city’s board of supervisors, opposing the banners and calling for a review of the city’s process for granting permits for banners. The National LIFE Runners experienced the tedious process first hand when we applied for a permit for the inaugural WC Walk for Life “Fr. Malloy” 5K. Through a nearly three-month process of closed doors, red tape and delays on the part of multiple San Francisco city departments, we were able to garner the necessary permits for our race.
San Francisco is the pro-life movement’s “Selma.” Please plan to join your LIFE Runner teammates at the WC Walk for Life and Fr. Malloy Walk for Life 5K. Here’s a schedule of events for that weekend along with a recap of last year’s Walk for Life.
Saturday, January 24
7:30 am FR. MALLOY 5K RUN – Golden Gate Park, near the parking lot on the north side of the Polo Fields: 1232 JFK Dr., San Francisco. The run, which honors the late Fr. John Malloy, SDB, the founding chaplain of the Walk for Life West Coast and first winner of the Walk’s St. Gianna Molla award for pro-life heroism, is a joint production of the Walk for Life West Coast, the Vitae Foundation and the national LIFE Runners team. For more information, go here. Run/walk the first annual – and very historic, Fr. Malloy 5K. Be not afraid!
11:15 am LIFE Runners meet on steps of the San Francisco City Hall (Polk Street) to walk together as a group behind the LIFE Runner banner.
12:30 pm Walk for Life Rally will be at the Civic Center Plaza. The rally is from 12:30 to 1:30 pm, followed immediately by the Walk for Life. See Google Map for course and locations. http://goo.gl/maps/f2isZ
1:30 pm West Coast Walk for Life
5 pm Law of Life Summit Conference: St. Mary’s Cathedral Conference Center, 1111 Gough St., San Francisco. http://lawlife.org/
Great Memories from Last Year
Last year, LIFE Runners’ first at the WC Walk for Life, we met with the San Francisco Archdiocese Respect Life Program Coordinator, Vicki Evans.
While we were with her she shared how the West Coast Walk for Life started and what it was like back then. Vicki said while pro-lifers had their rally before the walk, pro abortion forces there rallied in an adjacent area that was close by.
When the abortion supporters’ rally ended, they turned and faced the smaller pro-life group and came at them as one large mass in a very threatening way. Vicki said you could almost hear a hissing sound emanating from them among the shouts and screams. That moment of the first Walk for Life was described later in the day by Dolores Meehan, co-founder of the Walk for Life and Law of Life Summit speaker, “They [the pro abortion groups] sounded like the orcs at Helm’s Deep.”
In that first Walk for Life, abortion supporters filled condoms with simulated blood and other such things and then threw them at the pro-life group (7,500) as they passed. Nonetheless, pro-life walkers stood firm in their faith, commitment and prayerfully moved forward through the gauntlet of pro-abortion forces that lined the streets. Further along the route a barricade was created by abortion proponents, with locked arms refusing to allow them to pass. While the police faced off with them, pro-life walkers changed their course and went around the area. Here are some dramatic pictures of abortion supporters at the 2006 (2nd annual) West Coast Walk for Life.
City officials supported pro-abortion efforts while the police supported the pro-life walkers and valiantly gave them a shield of protection in full riot gear. I read Vicki’s blog before coming to San Francisco. She wrote about the first walk for life. Here’s an excerpt:
I used to think I might be a martyr someday. I actually wanted to be one. I believed this might occur during San Francisco’s Walk for Life West Coast, when in 2005, for the first time, we challenged the City’s militant pro-abortion culture at our peril. But something happened on the way to the Coliseum. The secular culture went too far in its unconditional embrace of abortion and our side started to win. Not only were we Walkers not martyred, but polls started turning against those favoring unrestricted abortion. Young people came to San Francisco in droves championing the Walk’s message that abortion hurts women, men, children, families, society; and women deserve better than abortion. We glimpsed the future of the pro-life movement and it was not what the prevailing culture was predicting.
The Walk for Life confronts the worst of San Francisco, a City that prides itself on being unreservedly pro-abortion…Maybe we’re getting harder to ignore. Maybe the Walk for Life will be our gift to the West Coast in the 21st century and we won’t be martyrs after all.
We also visited about the Pregnancy Help Centers in the area. She said all offer ultrasound and need constant support and prayers. I think that is our cue.
Vicki is one of the many wonderful pro-life leaders we met in the couple of days we were there. She is very accomplished and has a fiery commitment to her faith and the cause for life.
Afterwards we quickly made our way back to the hotel to get ready for the West Coast Law of Life Summit.
The group that gathered at the Law of Life Summit was some of the most interesting people – speakers and attendees.
Dr. Pat Castle, the event emcee, again did an excellent job facilitating the forum. It was an honor to be presenting along side so many pro life leaders like, David Bereit, Father Frank Pavone, Father Terry Gensemer, Reggie Littlejohn, Rob Rysavy, and
Dolores Meehan (one of the founders of the West Coast Walk for Life). After my presentation finished, there were a lot of great questions and comments that I was able to address…even some cheers for our life-saving statistics! Life Legal Defense Fund hosted a reception afterwards which gave us more time to visit with everyone. There were requests for Vitae media in not only San Francisco, but also, Sacramento and other areas of California. There was so much excitement among the group that they didn’t want it to end.
Thanks to Ave Maria Law School, Royce Hood, Dana Cody and our president, Dr. Pat Castle, for providing such a wonderful forum that will go forward as part of the West Coast Walk for Life activities.
Last year we met up with LIFE Runners from Oregon, Sacramento, Phoenix and beyond. They helped carry the banner and the flag to the gathering place for the Walk for Life Rally. it was sunny and in the 80’s! The LIFE Runners banner was one of the largest at the 60,000-person rally. We spoke with folks that were passing by and then EWTN did another interview with Pat – where again he spoke about LIFE Runners our great partner, Vitae Foundation, the oldest and largest pro-life mass media and messaging organization in the country.
(Go to the 17:10 minute mark in the video.) Our banner was used as the backdrop for the EWTN set where they were broadcasting live from the rally.
There were many speakers at the rally, and they focused on how “Abortion Hurts Women.” After about an hour we began to assemble in the street. The crowd was larger than I had imagined. The sights and sounds were overwhelming. I couldn’t believe I was in San Francisco walking in a pro-life march. Not the place you’d expect it. Then when I stopped to get a picture of the banner making a turn on the very wide Market St. and hearing this group of musicians that were playing and singing as they passed with several instruments, I teared up. I’m not sure what came over me. But seeing the size of the crowd and then our banner coming around the corner just stirred my soul. I was so proud of my team, of Pat, Rob, and others including Sara Beaner, who made the awesome banner, the marchers who were praying and singing…standing up for life in one of the more hostile places in the country and so many, many pro-life people. I still am not sure what it is about this Walk for Life, but I really felt deep in my soul that we were blessed to be a part of something so profoundly huge.
…And the Walk takes a turn
As we moved down the street, you could begin to hear bullhorns and loud shouting (watch this clip at the start – then forward to 24:40 minutes and you’ll see our team and our huge banner. I was on the far side of our banner right behind the flag. Rob Rysavy and Scot Stewart are shown carrying the banner). I heard someone say, “Everyone move to the center of the street!” The police formed a line along the street, so I knew pro-abortion protesters were up ahead.
Then we were right in front of them. It appeared for a moment that they were all around us.
There were pockets of these groups along the way, but definitely not one large group as it was in years past. A woman that had participated for several years in the Walk said that 2 years earlier the area we were approaching was blocked by the pro-abortion women who linked arms. Another time they stretched an orange net across the street that caught several of the motorcycle police that were protecting the pro-life group, throwing them from their vehicles. Fortunately there was nothing like that this year. We continued to the waterfront which is where it concluded with music. There were more EWTN interviews. We encountered some onlookers that had questions, and visited with other pro-life folks about our organizations.
As the crowd began to fade, we made our way to church. We headed down The Embarcadero, and it was a parade-like image. We were no longer in the very large crowd – now it was just our small band of LIFE Runners (six) with a billboard-like sign that said “REMEMBER the Unborn” on one side and “Go LIFE Runners” on the other. There were some honks, cheers, and jeers along the way to church.
Mass was beautifully said in the oldest language of the church, Latin. It was very solemn and a very appropriate way to end our day. Afterwards, we walked the banner back to our hotel and enjoyed one last meal together.
The next day came quickly and we all headed in different directions making our way home. There was so much to think about, follow up on and explore from the past week. I made some notes on the plane and then kind of laughed to myself about some of our minor mishaps throughout the trip. Most of all though, I was pleased to see, through the numbers at the Walk, the enthusiasm at the Summit and the excitement at the rally…that the tide was turning. So many things point to the the cultural change that is occurring. Now I have more to add to the list I keep that illustrates the fact that together we are winning! But we can never give in or give up. Be not afraid!