Jeanne Smits, Paris correspondent

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UPDATED: 1.4 million French march against gay ‘marriage’;police tear gas crowd, children

Jeanne Smits, Paris correspondent
By Jeanne Smits
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LifeSiteNews reporter Jeanne Smits directly witnessed the events that took place during this extraodinary event. She confirms the enormous numbers claimed by organizers and reports on many aspects either ignored or distorted by French and other media. This LifeSiteNews exclusive reports on what really happened during the demonstrations, including the totally uncalled for police tear gassing of some of her peaceful and prayerful friends and relatives.

Analysis

March 25, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) - According to organizers, nearly one and a half million people joined the third demonstration in five months against the legalization of same-sex “marriage” by the French government in Paris, on Sunday.

Meanwhile, large numbers of demonstrators who were unable to join the main venue – which had filled up by 3 p.m. – or who headed straight to the largest and most prestigious Parisian thoroughfare, the Champs-Elysées, were sprayed with tear-gas and beaten as they neared the presidential palace. Victims included children as young as 6 years old, elderly gentlemen, women of all ages, middle-aged priests and monks, and even a baby aged 10 months.

One boy, aged 14, named Lancelot, needed respiratory assistance for half an hour; another youth, Léonard, 17, was gassed and subsequently seized by riot police who threw him down the stairs at the entrance of a nearby subway station. Christine Boutin, leader of the mainstream Parti chrétien démocrate (Christian democratic Party), was also among the victims: she passed out after having been sprayed with tear-gas and lay unconscious on the street for several minutes.

Videos also show a woman demonstrator who was apparently deliberately knocked over by a police van being attended to by volunteer first-aid workers of the Order of Malta. Another young man, Tristan, told LifeSiteNews.com that he was gassed with a group of friends after sitting down in the street at the request of the armed forces.

The French media played down the police violence: all major radio, tv and other news sources spoke of “attacks” by violent young demonstrators against the police and armed forces, while the minister of the Interior, Manuel Valls, publicly congratulated law enforcement officers for their “professionalism and cool-headedness.” However, dozens of videos posted on the Internet as well as eye-witness reports received from personal acquaintances of this author certify the opposite: unarmed and pacific, the overwhelming majority of the demonstrators assaulted by the armed forces did no more than vociferate their disapproval of the draft law, if that: most of them were laughing and singing as they strolled down the “most beautiful avenue in the world” – as the French believe – and were suddenly attacked by the riot police.

Contrary to recent public demonstrations involving youths from the suburbs, no damage was caused and the young people and families involved were unarmed. No stones or Molotov cocktails were thrown, and there were virtually no attacks against the police who on several occasions let people through to the Champs-Elysées without offering much resistance.

Why did all these thousands of people – up to 40,000, according to the numbers quoted by the organizers of the “Manif pour tous’” (“Demonstration for all”) – decide to defy police orders not to march on the Champs-Elysées as had originally been planned? The ban had been made official for five days and had been confirmed by an emergency ruling on Wednesday afternoon. Hoqwcwe, the definitive itinerary and access points to the demonstration were only published by the “Manif pour tous” on the weekend. Frigide Barjot, the demonstration’s figurehead had previously announced that even if access to the Champs-Elysées were to be forbidden the March would go there all the same and plant tents to occupy the thoroughfare until some assurance would be given that the draft law would not be voted and enforced. She later backed down from this statement.

The symbolism of the Champs-Elysées is very important to the French. Military parades are held there on the 14th of July; it is where the Liberation parade took place on August 26th, 1944; soccer fans rallied there in their hundreds of thousands when France won the World Cup in 1998 and compact crowds gather every 31st December to see in the New Year. Political rallies were also held there, notably when hundreds of thousands of French demonstrated their support to general De Gaulle in the wake of the May-68 revolution.

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Even if the anti-gay “marriage” mobilization has been uniformly peaceful since the demonstrations began on November 17th, the powers that be are getting noticeably nervous about public opposition and the Champs-Elysées are way too close to the presidential palace (called the Elysée) for comfort. François Hollande, increasingly unpopular because of his handling of the economic crisis – latest opinion polls give him a meager 36% of popular approval – can certainly do without a major public hostile manifestation. Especially when his socialist predecessor François Mitterrand is known to have remarked, back in 1984: “When over one million people take to the streets, the government totters on its base.”

This may be the reason for police counts of demonstrators on Sunday afternoon. A few days ahead of the March, the Parisian police announced they were expecting some “100,000” participants, although the number of special trains and buses coming in from the French provinces was larger than two months ago. On January 13th the police had officially announced 340,000 participants as opposed to the million plus counted by the “Manif pour tous”.

This time round it had to be less. Official sources stopped their count at 300,000. They did so despite the fact that it had been given out beforehand that if the wide avenue behind the Arc de Triomphe where the demonstration was parked for five hours filled up – it can contain 1.2 million people – an additional avenue would be opened to accommodate the demonstrations. This took place at 3 p.m. An additional avenue was opened soon after, but despite this the crowds were so compact that many people literally spilled out onto the “place de l’Etoile” which separates the Champs from the Avenue de la Grande-Armée where the giant podium of the March was raised. This author witnessed part of the demonstration head-on from the balcony of a 6th floor apartment and can testify to the fact that the closely-knit, static crowd reached all the way to the end of the avenues between the Arc de Triomphe and the river Seine: some 6 kilometers.

This makes the “Manif pour tous” one of the most important demonstrations by far in the last thirty years. And it took many by surprise: most forecasters were expecting a lower turnout than two months ago, given the cost and bother of coming to Paris from the far away provinces, the more so because many large families came complete with all their children. Added to this is the fact that the demonstration is not claiming rights, benefits or public money. The French are voicing their opposition to same-sex “marriage” and “procreative rights” for homosexual couples as a matter of principle, in order to defend the community as a whole, the rights of children and the future of society itself.

These points were made by the many orators on the podium. Frigide Barjot has taken pains to keep politics and religion out of the “Manif pour tous”. However a number of representatives of the UMP, ex-president Sarkozy’s party, were allowed to speak. They are mostly in favor of legal civil unions as an alternative to same-sex “marriage” and over the years their party has promoted homosexual rights and criminalization of “homophobic hate-speech”. Left-wing politicians opposing gay “marriage” were also welcome, including a Trotskyite activist. Robert Lopez, the American professor who has publicly told of the problems he experienced as the child of a lesbian mother, told his story to enthusiastic applause. Gay men opposing same-sex “marriage” are among the organizers of the event. Adopted children witnessed to the importance of having a father and a mother to raise them, while adoptive parents told the crowd of the difficulties couples will experience when foreign countries refuse to let children in need of parents to travel to France if homosexuals are allowed to adopt here.

Jewish and protestant representatives were allowed to speak, as was a member of the Muslim brotherhood.

No Catholic bishop was invited to speak even though the vast majority of participants identify with Catholicism, sociologically at least, and it is an open secret that Sunday’s turnout was largely due to the Catholic hierarchy’s support.

Meanwhile, language that opponents to gay “marriage” and civil recognition of homosexual couples are finding increasingly difficult to stomach – calls from Frigide Barjot to applaud “the homosexuals” met with polite indifference – a certain ambiguity as regards the objectives of the march, and the sentiment that the advantage of previous demonstrations has not been pressed, all contributed to the nervousness of the crowds. Slogans like “Hollande resign” spontaneously arose while the organizers are still asking “Monsieur le Président” for a “dialogue” or a “referendum” about the draft law. Frigide Barjot’s main request was to obtain an interview with François Hollande today.

She also called the victims of Sunday’s police brutality “rioters” and “extremists,” implicitly justifying the use of teargas and violence against the crowds.

A spokesman for the government indicated early on Monday morning that the draft law will move ahead as planned. After a first reading at the National Assembly, it is scheduled to be discussed by the Senate in the beginning of April; second readings are expected and will take place if the Senate does not vote the text in identical terms.

Meanwhile, the socialist government is preparing other attacks on the family and the right to life. Embryo research is about to be voted into law: a whirlwind debate is expected at the National Assembly on Thursday. Child benefits are set to be cut for higher-income families. And as of Easter Sunday, abortion and contraception for under-age girls will be entirely funded by public money, making them 100% free.

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PBS defends decision to air pro-abortion documentary ‘After Tiller’

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By Dustin Siggins

Under pressure for showing the pro-abortion documentary "After Tiller" on Labor Day, PBS' "POV" affiliate has defended the decision in response to an inquiry from LifeSiteNews.

The producers of the film say their goal with the documentary, which tells the stories of four late-term abortion doctors after the killing of infamous late-term abortionist George Tiller, is to "change public perception of third-trimester abortion providers by building a movement dedicated to supporting their right to work with a special focus on maintaining their safety.” 

POV told LifeSiteNews, "We do believe that 'After Tiller' adds another dimension to an issue that is being debated widely." Asked if POV will show a pro-life documentary, the organization said that it "does not have any other films currently scheduled on this issue. POV received almost 1000 film submissions each year through our annual call for entries and we welcome the opportunity to consider films with a range of points of view."

When asked whether POV was concerned about alienating its viewership -- since PBS received millions in federal tax dollars in 2012 and half of Americans identify as pro-life -- POV said, "The filmmakers would like the film to add to the discussion around these issues. Abortion is already a legal procedure."

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"This is an issue that people feel passionately about and will have a passionate response to. We are hopeful that the majority of people can see it for what it is, another lens on a very difficult issue." 

In addition to the documentary, POV has written materials for community leaders and teachers to share. A cursory examination of the 29-page document, which is available publicly, appears to include links to outside sources that defend Roe v. Wade, an examination of the constitutional right to privacy, and "a good explanation of the link between abortion law and the right to privacy," among other information.

Likewise, seven clips recommended for student viewing -- grades 11 and beyond -- include scenes where couples choose abortion because the children are disabled. Another shows pro-life advocates outside a doctor's child's school, and a third is described as showing "why [one of the film's doctors] chose to offer abortion services and includes descriptions of what can happen when abortion is illegal or unavailable, including stories of women who injured themselves when they tried to terminate their own pregnancies and children who were abused because they were unwanted."

Another clip "includes footage of protesters, as well as news coverage of a hearing in the Nebraska State Legislature in which abortion opponents make reference to the idea that a fetus feels pain." The clip's description fails to note that it is a scientifically proven fact that unborn children can feel pain.

The documentary is set to air on PBS at 10 p.m. Eastern on Labor Day.

Kirsten Andersen contributed to this article.

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He defended ‘real’ marriage, and then was beheaded for it

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By Pete Baklinski

A Christian man was executed during the night by a high-profile ruler after making an uncompromising defense of real marriage.

The Christian, who was renowned for his holiness, had told the ruler in public that his relationship with his partner was “against the law” of God. The Christian’s words enraged the ruler’s partner who successfully plotted to have him permanently silenced.

John the Baptist was first imprisoned before he was beheaded. The Catholic Church honors him today, August 29, as a martyr and saint.

While John’s death happened a little less than 2,000 years ago, his heroic stance for real marriage is more pertinent today than ever before.

According to the Gospel of Mark, the ruler Herod had ‘married’ his brother’s wife Herodias. When John told Herod with complete frankness, “It is against the law for you to have your brother’s wife,” Herodias became “furious” with him to the point of wanting him killed for his intolerance, bullying, and hate-speech.

Herodias found her opportunity to silence John by having her daughter please Herod during a dance at a party. Herod offered the girl anything she wanted. The daughter turned to her mother for advice, and Herodias said to ask for John’s head on a platter.

Those who fight for real marriage today can learn three important lessons from John’s example.

  1. Those proudly living in ungodly and unnatural relationships — often referred to in today’s sociopolitical sphere as ‘marriage’ — will despise those who tell them what they are doing is wrong. Real marriage defenders must expect opposition to their message from the highest levels.
  2. Despite facing opposition, John was not afraid to defend God’s plan for marriage in the public square, even holding a secular ruler accountable to this plan. John, following the third book of the Hebrew Bible (Leviticus 20:21), held that a man marrying the wife of his brother was an act of “impurity” and therefore abhorrent to God. Real marriage defenders must boldly proclaim today that God is the author of marriage, an institution he created to be a life-long union between one man and one woman from which children arise and in which they are best nurtured. Marriage can be nothing more, nothing less.
  3. John did not compromise on the truth of marriage as revealed by God, even to the point of suffering imprisonment and death for his unpopular position. Real marriage defenders must never compromise on the truth of marriage, even if the government, corporate North America, and the entire secular education system says otherwise. They must learn to recognize the new “Herodias” of today who despises those raising a voice against her lifestyle. They must stand their ground no matter what may come, no matter what the cost.

John the Baptist was not intolerant or a bigot, he simply lived the word of God without compromise, speaking the word of truth when it was needed, knowing that God’s way is always the best way. Were John alive today, he would be at the forefront of the grassroots movement opposing the social and political agenda to remake marriage in the image of man.

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If he were alive today he might speak simple but eloquent words such as, “It is against God’s law for two men or two women to be together as a husband and wife in marriage. Marriage can only be between a man and a woman.” 

He would most likely be hated. He would be ridiculed. He would surely have the human rights tribunals throwing the book at him. But he would be speaking the truth and have God as his ally. 

The time may not be far off when those who defend real marriage, like John, will be presented with the choice of following Caesar or making the ultimate sacrifice. May God grant his faithful the grace to persevere in whatever might come. St. John the Baptist, pray for us!

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The Wunderlich family Mike Donnelly / Home School Legal Defence Association
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German homeschoolers regain custody of children, vow to stay and fight for freedom

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By Thaddeus Baklinski

One year to the day since a team of 20 social workers, police officers, and special agents stormed a homeschooling family’s residence near Darmstadt, Germany, and forcibly removed all four of the family’s children, aged 7 to 14, a state appeals court has returned custody of the children to their parents.

The reason given for the removal was that parents Dirk and Petra Wunderlich continued to homeschool their children in defiance of a German ban on home education.

The children were returned three weeks after being taken, following an international outcry spearheaded by the Home School Legal Defense Association.

However, a lower court imposed the condition on the parents that their children were required to attend state schools in order for them to be released, and took legal custody of the children in order to prevent the family from leaving the country.

In a decision that was still highly critical of the parents and of homeschooling, the appeals court decided that the action of the lower court in putting the children in the custody of the state was “disproportional” and ordered complete custody returned to the parents, according to a statement by the HSLDA.

The Wunderlichs, who began homeschooling again when the court signaled it would rule this way, said they were very pleased with the result, but noted that the court’s harsh words about homeschooling indicated that their battle was far from over.

“We have won custody and we are glad about that,” Dirk said.

“The court said that taking our children away was not proportionate—only because the authorities should apply very high fines and criminal prosecution instead. But this decision upholds the absurd idea that homeschooling is child endangerment and an abuse of parental authority.”

The Wunderlichs are now free to emigrate to another country where homeschooling is legal, if they choose, but they said they intend to remain in Germany and work for educational freedom.

“While we no longer fear that our children will be taken away as long as we are living in Hessen, it can still happen to other people in Germany,” Dirk said. “Now we fear crushing fines up to $75,000 and jail. This should not be tolerated in a civilized country.”

Petra Wunderlich said, "We could not do this without the help of HSLDA,” but cautioned that, “No family can fight the powerful German state—it is too much, too expensive."

"If it were not for HSLDA and their support, I am afraid our children would still be in state custody. We are so grateful and thank all homeschoolers who have helped us by helping HSLDA.”

HSLDA’s Director for Global Outreach, Michael Donnelly, said he welcomed the ruling but was concerned about the court’s troubling language.

“We welcome this ruling that overturns what was an outrageous abuse of judicial power,” he said.

“The lower court decision to take away legal custody of the children essentially imprisoned the Wunderlich family in Germany. But this decision does not go far enough. The court has only grudgingly given back custody and has further signaled to local authorities that they should still go after the Wunderlichs with criminal charges or fines.”

Donnelly pointed out that such behavior in a democratic country is problematic.

“Imprisonment and fines for homeschooling are outside the bounds of what free societies that respect fundamental human rights should tolerate,” he explained.

“Freedom and fundamental human rights norms demand respect for parental decision making in education. Germany’s state and national policies that permit banning home education must be changed.

"Such policies from a leading European democracy not only threaten the rights of tens of thousands of German families but establish a dangerous example that other countries may be tempted to follow,” Donnelly warned.

HSLDA Chairman Michael Farris said that acting on behalf of the Wunderlichs was an important stand for freedom.

“The Wunderlichs are a good and decent family whose basic human rights were violated and are still threatened,” Farris said.

“Their fight is our fight," Farris stressed, "and we will continue to support those who stand against German policy banning homeschooling that violates international legal norms. Free people cannot tolerate such oppression and we will do whatever we can to fight for families like the Wunderlichs both here in the United States and abroad. We must stand up to this kind of persecution where it occurs or we risk seeing own freedom weakened.”

Visit the HSLDA website dedicated to helping the Wunderlich family and other German homeschoolers here.

Contact the German embassy in the U.S. here.

Contact the German embassy in Canada here.

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