50,000 fill SF streets in Walk for Life
Tens of thousands of people walked down Market Street in San Francisco, chanting, "We are the pro-life generation" in the 11th annual Walk for Life West Coast, the largest pro-life demonstration in the Western United States.
Second only in size to the March for Life in Washington, D.C., the Jan. 24 pro-life rally at Civic Center and 1.8-mile walk down Market Street to Justin Herman Plaza drew more than 50,000 people and slowed traffic throughout the downtown area for several hours, meriting traffic alerts on local radio stations.
"There is a war on women but we are not declaring war, we have come to set women free!" declared Walk for Life rally speaker Joy Pinto.
"The civil rights movement of this present age is the pro-life movement and we are nearing our victory and we cannot compromise," declared walk speaker Rev. Clenard Childress Jr., founder of Blackgenocide.org and a Baptist minister in Montclair, New Jersey.
The walk is held on the Saturday closest to the anniversary of the Jan. 22, 1973, Roe v. Wade U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion.
Many began the day at St. Mary's Cathedral for the 9:30 a.m. Walk for Life Mass where San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone told the standing room only crowd of nearly 5,000, "Our goal is not a legal one nor is it a political one. Our goal is a spiritual one: to build a culture of life."
The Diocese of Oakland was well represented among the marchers.
Almost a dozen Capuchin Franciscan friars from St. Conrad Priory in Berkeley boarded a BART train for the trip to San Francisco.
In their simple brown habits belted with rope, and rosary beads at their waists, the friars stand out in a crowd. Their presence at the walk, said the superior, Brother Peter, is to say, "We support life."
At Civic Center Plaza, about 200 people from the Vietnamese Catholic Community stood near the main stage. Through its ministries to young people, Sister Rosaline Nguyen, LHC, director of the Vietnamese Pastoral Center, said, "young people are aware of life."
"Having Archbishop Viganò to support us means the whole church is responding," he said.
As the march made its way down Market Street, Daezaun Tucker, 18, from St. Joseph Basilica Parish in Alameda carried a handmade sign likening abortion to slavery.
Abortion, said Anna Nguyen, a Diablo Valley College student who was with the group, "is not a choice they should be able to have."
Near Fifth and Market streets, a trio of megaphone- and sign-carrying abortion rights protesters began to shout near a group from St. Edward Parish in Newark reciting the rosary in Spanish. The rosary continued uninterrupted.
At the Powell Street BART station, Benie Ebias reluctantly stepped off the march — which had left her with "a nice feeling" — and headed home. She needed to make the 5 p.m. Mass at Our Lady Queen of the World Parish in Bay Point, where she was scheduled to serve as an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion.
"My young people, you are the pro-life generation," Archbishop Cordileone said, noting that once again a majority of those present were young, adding "Let us be clear. Our ideology is pro-life and pro-woman. The two go together."
"We come because we want to end abortion and we think abortion is a tragedy that affects everyone," said Margaret Koehler, a mechanical engineering major, who spoke for the 20 Stanford Pro-Life students at Civic Center. "And we think by demonstrating today we can help to open people's hearts and minds to stop abortion."
In addition to Childress and Pinto, speakers included Julia Holcomb, who told the story of her abortion during a relationship as a teenager with Aerosmith lead singer Steven Tyler, and Rebekah Buell who shared how a new technique allowed her to save her unborn baby even after taking the first RU486 pill. Joy Pinto and her husband Jim are hosts of EWTN shows and work with Her Choice Birmingham Women's Center in Alabama.
Among those rallying for life were 60 students from Wyoming Catholic College clad in blue shirts emblazoned with a cowboy boot and the motto "Cowboys for Life," 120 students from Thomas Aquinas College, thousands of high school students from throughout Northern California and members of numerous Bay Area and California Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican and other denominations.
Founded in 2005 by a group of Bay Area residents with the mission of changing the perception that abortion is the answer, the Walk for Life West Coast is the largest pro-life demonstration on the West Coast.
— Michele Jurich contributed to this report
Oakland long a leader in pro-life movement
More than a dozen nationally recognized leaders in the pro-life movement came to Oakland on Jan. 23 for the annual Conversations4Life Dinner. The event was a benefit for Rev. Walter Hoye's Issues4Life Foundation and for the Gabriel Project at St. Margaret Mary Parish, which hosted the sold-out dinner.
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