On Saturday, January 26, an estimated 50,000+ pro-lifers overflowed San Francisco’s Civic Center and Market Street for the ninth annual Walk for Life West Coast. Pope Benedict XVI’s representative to the United States, Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, delivered a message from the Pope along with his papal blessing. Pope Benedict’s message, which was also sent out on a Vatican Twitter feed, said, His Holiness “is grateful to all those who take part in this outstanding public witness to the fundamental human right to life and the moral imperative of upholding the inviolable dignity of each member of our human family, especially the smallest and most defenseless of our brothers and sisters.”
“You are a powerful witness that God’s truth cannot be silenced,” said San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone, who blessed participants to begin the event. “Yes, we are here to stay because life is good and life is holy.”
The speakers at the Walk included Lacey Buchanan, the mother of a disabled child; Elaine Riddick, who was forcibly sterilized by the state of North Carolina at age 14; Kelly and Matthew Clinger who regret their abortions; and the Rev. Clenard Childress, who has spoken at nearly every walk since its founding in 2005.
The rally closed with an impassioned speech by Reverend Childress, a crusader against (especially) abortions of African-American babies. Rev. Childress shared the story of St. Telemachus, a fifth-century monk, who attempted to stop a gladiatorial combat in a Roman Colliseum. Telemachus was stoned to death by the crowd, but his example moved the Emperor Honorius to put an end such contests–permanently. Three times Childress quoted the Saint: “The killing must end!”
A 10:00 a.m. counter-rally held at Justin Herman Plaza, drew “more than 300” pro-abortion demonstrators, according to ABC. The rally featured San Francisco supervisors Eric Mar, David Chiu, and David Campos, state senator Mark Leno, and free-contraception advocate Sandra Fluke. According to the Bay Guardian, Magalie Bonneau-Marcil, director of Oakland nonprofit Dancing without Borders, was to attend the opposition rally with a “flash mob” and expected “… between 400 and 500 dancers to descend upon the plaza.” That apparently did not happen.
By all accounts the rally and Walk were the largest in the event’s history. ABC TV gave a figure of more than 40,000; Walk organizers would only give an estimate of “more than 50,000.” An observer at the corner of Kearny and Market Street, about halfway down the Walk’s route, said that walkers took 50 minutes to pass. That squares with ABC accounts that it took “the better part of an hour” for pro-lifers to empty Civic Center Plaza and enter Market Street. Confirmation of the Walk’s magnitude came from unusual sources.
Commenting on the media’s downplaying of the Walk, co-founder Eva Muntean said: “We got some decent coverage from our local ABC affiliate. The San Francisco Chronicle’s and KTVU television coverage attempted to ‘balance’ the two events. While that appears to show objectivity, it doesn’t really, because it ignores the difference in magnitude…. We saw a post yesterday on an online message board from a man who was complaining about being stuck in traffic because of the Walk. He said he had not known about the Walk, and that he was ‘shocked’ at the number of people in attendance, and that he was stuck in traffic for two hours. Well, why didn’t he know? Why was he ‘shocked’?”
Co-founder Dolores Meehan added “You can avoid the truth, but you can’t avoid the traffic!”