Showers did indeed greet the marchers, but that didn't seem to dampen spirits as they wended their way down San Francisco's waterfront Embarcadero, through the famous tourist-clogged Fisherman's Wharf, to Marina Green near the Golden Gate Bridge. The sea of humanity filled the street from curb to curb and stretched for over a mile long, praying and singing songs and hymns.
As in years past, the 2010 Walk for Life West Coast was a vivid cross-section of America: elderly grandparents, toddlers in strollers, infants in backpacks, high school and college students, young adults, white, black, Hispanic, Asian. Although many participants were from San Francisco and the Bay area, thousands came from throughout the state, with many churches organizing bus transportation to bring their congregation members and school students. Banners of the various schools, churches, and pro-life organizations festooned the moving throng, along with the ubiquitous professionally printed signs proclaiming "Women Deserve Better Than Abortion," "Abortion Hurts Women," "I Regret My Abortion," "Men Regret Lost Fatherhood," and similar messages.
Although no official count is available, this year's crowd may have been somewhat smaller than last year's record numbers, which The New American and other sources estimated to be perhaps as high as 40,000 to 50,000. Several publications estimated the totals for this year's Walk for Life West Coast to be in the neighborhood of 30,000 to 35,000.
The West Coast walk is still small compared to the hundreds of thousands who gather annually in Washington D.C. for the March for Life (see Americans Observe Roe v. Wade Anniversary, The New American's report on the 2010 March) but it has grown rapidly, from the 7,000 who came out in 2005, to the tens of thousands that now mark this annual protest against the carnage of abortion that has taken the lives of more than 50 million babies since the Supreme Court issued its Roe v. Wade decision in 1973.
Eight Catholic Bishops joined the San Francisco walk, along with evangelical Protestant ministers and numerous priests, nuns, and brothers in the habits of various Catholic religious orders. Before the walk commenced, the marchers heard rousing speeches at Justin Herman Plaza from speakers that included Abby Johnson, who resigned last year from her job as director of a Planned Parenthood abortion facility and joined 40 Days for Life, a national campaign that focuses on prayer and fasting outside abortion clinics. Johnson issued a call to actions, telling the Walk for Life participants: "If you are here, you are an activist. We can no longer just say the words but must put our words into action."
Also addressing the rain-soaked throng was Lila Rose, the UCLA student referred to by many as the "Undercover Angel" for her courageous video exposes' of Planned Parenthood. Miss Rose, who is president of Live Action, said "The fact that we have allowed abortion in this great nation, the killing of the most defenseless and weak among us has resulted in the greatest human rights abuse I believe our nation has ever seen. It is up to us to stand, raise our voices, and protect the smallest." Her videos, in which she visits Planned Parenthood clinics posing as a 15-year-old girl impregnated by a 23-year-old man, have caused Planned Parethood to be investigated and have led to some states cutting off funding to the organization. In the videos, Planned Parenthood staff members can be seen breaking the law, advising Lila not to mention her age again or the age of her boyfriend (after she has already done so) and admitting that they know they are engaged in criminal activity by agreeing to provide an underage girl with an abortion and failing to report her sexual intercourse with an adult, which is statutory rape. (See her videos here, here, and here).
The Reverend Clenard Childress, founder of BlackGenocide.org and pastor at New Calvary Baptist Church in Montclair, N.J., is a fiery orator who has been a featured speaker at all six Walk for Life West Coast annual events. His rousing speech signaled hope and optimism that, after decades of laboring in the trenches, pro-lifers are seeing significant victories. "There is an obvious shifting in our culture and it stems from advances in the pro-life movement," he told the crowd.
The marchers poured out of the Plaza and onto the street accompanied by the stirring sound of bagpipes, provided by the St. Patrick Pipe Band from St. Stephen the First Martyr Parish of Sacramento. A small but combative group of pro-abortion advocates, as in years past, dogged the marchers for the first mile or so of the trek, yelling and chanting anti-Christian slogans and profane or salacious remarks. The counter-demonstrators, who amounted to only a few dozen this year, have, mercifully, diminished in number each year.
As we reported here in 2005 (The Brutal Face of "Tolerance"), the radical left came out in force that first year of the Walk for Life West Coast, egged on by Mayor Gavin Newsome and other San Francisco politicians. Whipping themselves into a lather, the screaming, surging pro-abortion militants blocked the route of the marchers and very nearly started a riot, which was their obvious intent. Thanks to the actions of the San Francisco police and the Walk organizers, who remained cool under pressure and diverted the marchers down an alternate route, conflict was avoided.
This year's Walk for Life West Coast likewise ended peacefully and joyfully, as the pro-abortion demonstrators gave up and the sun came out to shine welcome warmth on the second half of the march. The mile-long river of pilgrims streamed through the city's Aquatic Park and Fort Mason to the final destination, the large grassy Marina Green, where pro-life tents and booths with information, food, and musicians awaited them, as well as a magnificent view of sun-drenched San Francisco Bay and the Golden Gate Bridge.