SAN FRANCISCO, January 24, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Tens of thousands of pro-lifers gathered in front of San Francisco’s City Hall, and then filled the city’s main thoroughfare, walking about two miles down Market Street to the Embarcadero in the 8th Annual Walk for Life West Coast on January 21.
Estimates of how many walkers participated vary from 40,000 to 55,000. “The San Jose Mercury News says 50,000,” Gibbons Cooney, head of Walk For Life West Coast media relations told LifeSiteNews, “but I think more because our stationary video camera showed people passing solidly at the foot of Market Street for 1 hour & 10 minutes.”
Organizers said this year’s new route down Market Street made the event an even bigger success, providing more exposure for the Walk through the heart of San Francisco, with participants banging drums, playing guitars, chanting “We are pro-life,” and stopping all traffic for more than a mile.
Abortion rights protesters, who held their own rally called ‘West Coast Rally for Reproductive Justice,’ which was reportedly attended by about 80 people, briefly attempted to disrupt the Walk by pulling an orange plastic fence across Market Street, but police quickly removed the group of counter-protesters.
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“They had one of those orange plastic fences, festooned with coat hangers, that they attempted to string across Market Street,” said Darwin Sayo, of the Walk for Life West Coast Media Team. “It may have tripped up the police officers on bicycles. In any case, the good SFPD quickly took charge, and the curtain was history.”
Sayo noted that organizers instructed Walk for Lifers to stop their chanting while the police restored order. “It makes it easier for them, and gives them one less thing to worry about. We love our SFPD!” Sayo remarked.
An anonymous photojournalist who goes by the name Protest Shooter, briefly attended the abortion rights rally location to take some photos before heading over to the Walk For Life.
“First off, let’s check out the West Coast Rally for Reproductive Justice. I can’t believe I get suckered by these people into showing up for these things. 80 people and a couple of tables with brochures. Let’s see how the Walk for Life is going… That’s more like it. The square was pretty full – a great mass of people as far as the eyes could see,” Protest Shooter wrote in captions describing what he saw.
The Walk For Life West Coast began with Mass at St. Mary’s Cathedral where San Francisco Archbishop George Niederauer told a packed cathedral, “You are the present and the future of this cause,” according to a Catholic San Francisco report.
“Eternal life overcomes the culture of death,” Archbishop Niederauer said in his homily.
Fr. Aris Metrakos of San Francisco’s Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church gave the invocation this year, and organizers said there were quite a number of Orthodox priests, as well as other bishops and priests from all over California.
Dolores Meehan, co-chair of the Walk, which is held on the Saturday closest to the anniversary of the Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling legalizing abortion, greeted the tens of thousands of pro-lifers massed at Civic Center Plaza. “We are here to say life is the choice and women are hurt by abortion,” she said.
Walk co-chair Eva Muntean urged participants to sign petitions to put a parental notification of a minor’s intent to procure an abortion on the California ballot and urged support for a state initiative for a personhood amendment.
Other speakers included Dr. Vansen Wong, an ob-gyn. “If you have taken the life of another human being, raise your hand,” Dr. Wong demanded of the crowd. He then told the crowd his story of performing abortions to pay off his medical bills, saying he ended hundreds of lives over the course of seven years working at an evening abortion clinic.
“What changed is that God got a hold of me… I now regret the loss of every single precious life,” he said.
“Abortion is barbaric, abortion is intolerable,” said Dr. Wong, who now works with a pro-life medical clinic where pregnant women receive ultrasounds. “Abortion has no place in any civilized society.”
A former Miss West Virginia, Jacquie Stalnaker, told of being forced at gunpoint to go to an abortion clinic by her boyfriend and of the toll the abortion took for 24 years of her life. She related being told she was merely undergoing an examination, then, while in terrible pain, heard the abortionist say, “wait, just one more part.” Subsequently she collapsed in the street and spent three days in hospital.
Stalnaker, who is now a regional representative for the Silent No More Campaign, an organization of women who have had abortions and now speak of the regret they suffer, urged the crowd to get pro-choice friends to visit the group’s website to hear the stories of women who have had abortions. “We are real people with real stories to offer you,” she said.
Lori Hoye, wife of pro-life hero Rev. Walter Hoye, shared her own story – her mother got pregnant at 15 and her sister had an abortion – and expressed her concern over the devastating impact abortion is having on the African-American community.
Before the Walkers proceeded down Market Street, Baptist preacher Rev. Clenard Childress, who has spoken at seven of the eight Walks, urged the participants to focus on the light of the Culture of Life they were giving witness to, and said that the Holy Spirit would be their guide.
“You are the candle… you are the light… you are the salt of the earth,” Childress told the crowd. “This is more than a pro-life movement. This is a Holy Spirit movement because the spirit addresses evil.”
Photos and videos of the 2012 Walk For Life West Coast are available here, here, and here.