Catholic ex-mayor charged after turning power washer on elderly priest, protesters at pro-life rally
SOUTH SAN FRANCISCO, July 2, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) – The Catholic former mayor of South San Francisco turned a power washer on an elderly priest and a group of pro-life protesters, after they objected to Planned Parenthood opening an office in a building adjacent to a parochial school.
John Penna was ticketed for simple battery after he soaked Fr. Joe Richards and at least two others with a power washer outside the building he owns at 435 Grand Avenue on Saturday morning.
The onetime mayor, who served on South San Francisco City Council for 11 years until 2000, said he came to wash the building, which he will soon be renting to Planned Parenthood.
Penna claimed he felt threatened by the retired priest, who is in his 80s, because he carries a cane. He also accused the priest of placing a “hex” on him in the past.
He also expressed frustration that the pro-life activists “were not acknowledging that I was talking to them. I gave them fair warning.”
In addition to Fr. Richards, Penna soaked 79-year-old Ross Foti and a number of other demonstrators in the crowd of about 20.
The 70-year-old former mayor told local media the priest “came up ready to hit me with the cane and I told him to back off. That’s when I squirted him in the chest, then his pants.”
But others told a different story.
“Father Joe was trying to talk to John Penna in a most peaceful manner when John said Father Joe was trying to strike him with his cane,” said a letter written by two eyewitnesses. “Unfortunately, Father Joe Richards took a hard blow from this very angry John Penna.”
Two activists called police after they saw Penna “was getting out of control.” Two police cars soon arrived, and officers ticketed Penna for “simple battery.”
The sight of concerned Catholics and right to life activists has become common at the location, where Planned Parenthood plans to open a facility just a block from All Souls Catholic Church and school.
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At a hearing in April, Planned Parenthood Mar Monte officials said they plan to distribute abortifacient “emergency contraception,” particularly to "undocumented" residents, but say the facility will not perform surgical abortions.
Planned Parenthood's services are available to any girl beginning at age 12, without parental notification, in the state of California.
“I guess the heat of every Saturday protesters is getting to” Penna, the letter by the two eyewitnesses states. “From what I heard this is the third time he has harassed people but no one has called the police on him before.”
The website Everything South City obtained the following open letter:
Dear Archbishop Cordileone and Pro-Lifers,
James and myself joined Father Joe Richards to pray in front of the proposed Planned Parenthood at 435 Grand Ave. in South San Francisco around 10:30 a.m. We didn’t leave until 12:30 p.m.
Mr. John Penna who is the owner of the proposed Planned Parenthood hosed down with a high powered water blaster Father Joe Richards 3 times and became soaked with water from head to toe, Mr. Foti 2 times, and another gentlemen and several others got a little wet as well as we did.
It was a sheer disgrace what we witnessed today because first of all Father Joe Richards is handicap and uses a cane, in his ’80′s and most importantly he is our beloved priest who is not afraid to stand for life. Father Joe was trying to talk to John Penna in a most peaceful manner when John said Father Joe was trying to strike him with his cane! James and I were witnesses as well as others there and Father never ever tried to strike John Penna as he needed his cane to hold himself up after John Penna was hosing him down with this high powered water blaster. This John Penna has to be in his 60′s years of age.
I Eleanora told James to call the police because John Penna was getting out of control. Two police cars arrived. After all our statements were taken the police finally said to Father Joe and Mr. Foti that they would do a citizens arrest of John Penna after hearing Eleanora’s statement.
Unfortunately, Father Joe Richards took a hard blow from this very angry John Penna. I quess the heat of every Saturday protesters is getting to him. From what I heard this is the third time he has harassed people but no one has called the police on him before.
Erica Hathaway and some others people took all kinds of photos of his behavior. We had about 20 persons doing a very peaceful demonstration today praying the rosary and Divine Mercy Chaplet. We were also informed that the City Hall has a camera there on the outside so, hopefully, it picked up some shots of John Penna’s behavior towards these peaceful demonstrators.
God Bless, +Br. James and Eleanora+