See photos of the 2016 Walk here!
On Saturday, January 23, tens of thousands of San Franciscans, joined by young pro-lifers from as far away as Arizona, Colorado, Oklahoma and Alaska filled the city’s Civic Center Plaza and Market Street at the 12th Annual Walk for Life West Coast. Organizers would not give a firm number of attendees, saying only “tens of thousands” but crowd size was consistent with recent years, where local mainstream media estimated 50-55,000 people. Attendance was especially impressive given travel difficulties caused by the intense weather of recent weeks’ El Nino weather system—a system that broke the day of the Walk, with only an occasional drizzle interrupting the sunshine.
Walk co-chair Eva Muntean introduced the rally by urging attendees to greater pro-life activism, giving a shout-out to 40 Days for Life who were at the Walk’s Info Faire, and to California’s Parental Notification Initiative, whose representatives manned two signature-gathering tables.
This year’s speakers included two international stars of the pro-life movement: Obianuju Ekeocha of Culture of Life Africa, and Mexican musical superstar and pro-life activist Emmanuel, as well as the influential young American pro-life activist, David Daleiden of the Center for Medical Progress.
Both Ekeocha and Daleiden challenged the mind-set of Planned Parenthood and the anti-family NGO’s of the world who see human beings as commodities. Ms. Ekeocha attacked the cultural imperialism western NGO’s are attempting to impose on Africa: “They tell us the lie that women– in order to have opportunities and in order for us be successful– we must have abortion rights. I stand here before you not just as a black person or an African person. I stand here before you as a woman to say we should never have to buy success with the blood of our babies.”
David Daleiden echoed Ms. Ekeocha’s observations that abortion has turned our own children into commodities; he noted that what his videos prove is that while pro-abortionists deny the humanity of the fetus at the time of abortion, they immediately turn around and assert the humanity of the fetus when it is time to sell their body parts:
“The videos raise the biggest question that Planned Parenthood and their allies cannot answer. That is how on the one hand in our country the humanity of the baby fetus is not considered to be equal enough to our own in order to be totally protected by law, but at the same time it is precisely their equal and identical humanity to our own that makes them so valuable for sale.”
In his homily at the Walk for Life Mass, celebrated at 9:30 AM at St. Mary’s Cathedral, San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone also addressed Daleiden’s videos, which document Planned Parenthood’s callous attitude towards selling the body ports of aborted children. He noted the bizarre contortions required by the organization’s defenders: “…there are those who would defend the practice by deflecting the argument to questions of legal technicalities regarding what is and is not against the law, thus side-stepping the real question, the much bigger question. But the big question cannot be ignored, it has to be answered, there is no getting around it: what does this say about us as a society?”
The final two speakers were fiery Walk stalwart the Reverend Clenard Childress, Director of BlackGenocide.org and Latino music sensation Emmanuel. Emmanuel began by saying, in English “We are here in defense of life. We have to do it. We all have to do it,” and then spoke in Spanish to the Walk’s large and ever-growing Hispanic contingent. Emmanuel’s fame in the Spanish-speaking world can scarcely be overstated. The cheers accompanying his appearance were thunderous. Ed Hopfner, of the Archdiocese of San Francisco, said that following the rally the crowd swarmed Emmanuel, and that he and other security had difficulty in getting him back to his car.
As the Walk headed down Market Street, the lead, as always, was taken by youth. The front ranks were filled with members of Catholic High Schools from San Francisco and surrounding dioceses. College students were numerous as well: Thomas Aquinas College sent their largest-ever contingent: 220 students. They were joined by Arizona State Students for Life, students from Denver’s Jesuit Regis University, students from the Newman Center of Oregon, and others.
As always, protesters tried to disrupt the Walk. Three young women managed to sneak around to the northern side of the speaker’s area and throw literature onto the stage while Daleiden was speaking. They then remove their tops and shouted obscenities. Although almost no one at the rally was aware of the attempted disruption, it did lead to one of the day’s most memorable and charming moments: the Sisters of Life giving their cloaks to the half-naked girls so they would not catch cold. The girls were arrested.
There were also between 100-150 protesters from Stop Patriarchy, a group affiliated with the Revolutionary Communist Party, waiting for the Walk at the corner of Powell and Market Street. But as always they were outnumbered by about 400 to one.