R. I. Catholic
‘Warriors for Life’ not stopped by radicals’ attack
BY RICK SNIZEK, Editor2/2/12
PROVIDENCE, Rhode Island — Days after the Diocese of Providence agreed to open an emergency day shelter at the request of the City of Providence to help reduce the number of homeless – including members of the Occupy Providence movement – about two-dozen anti-life protesters from Occupy Providence disrupted the Rhode Island State Right to Life Committee’s 39th annual Pro-Life Rally last Thursday.
What do you think? Send a letter to the editor or share your thoughts on the Rhode Island Catholic Facebook page.
Waving anti-life signs in the faces of speakers, pushing and shoving aside pro-life participants and shouting over the closing prayer offered by Father Bernard A. Healey, director of the Rhode Island Catholic Conference, and chief lobbyist for the Diocese of Providence, the protesters attempted to intimidate the crowd of nearly 150 pro-lifers gathered in the Statehouse rotunda.
Someone also threw condoms at the crowd from an upper level of the Capitol, with packets raining down upon students from La Salle Academy’s Pro-Life Club.
Speaking for a large group of 12 legislators present on the steps of the rotunda in support for the pro-life legislative agenda, Rep. Jon D. Brien (D-Woonsocket), vowed over heckling from protesters that the lawmakers would remain committed to the cause.
“We intend to push the pro-life agenda,” Brien said. We’re proud, we’re strong and we won’t back down.”
Among the 150 pro-life supporters participating in the rally were student pro-life groups representing Bishop Hendricken High School, LaSalle Academy and St. Mark’s Parish Youth Group, Cranston.
The protesters, many carrying signs with messages such as “Abortion is Health Care,” “Anti-Choice is Anti-Woman,” “Abortion Doctors are Heroes” and “Jesus was an Occupier,” shouted, “We’ll be back!” in response.
Father Healey suggested that the anti-life protesters had embarrassed themselves with their “wild antics and hooliganism” days after the diocese opened a day shelter, a condition for Occupy Providence to vacate Burnside Park, where they set up camp Oct. 15.
“The pro-life cause cannot be stymied by shouts and screams of a few radicals,” he said.
“They fear the truth that abortion is evil and so attempted to shout it down. However, the large turnout of legislators and supporters committed to the culture of life will never stop giving a voice to the voiceless and innocent unborn. While they profess the freedom of speech and freedom to assemble, such rights are only extended to those who share their radical beliefs.”
Barth E. Bracy, executive director of the Rhode Island State Right to Life Committee, said he was “outraged” by the actions of the protesters.
“They were trying to shut down our ability to speak. It is ‘thuggery’ and it bodes very poorly in our society,” Bracy said.
Although RISRTL had expected perhaps a dozen protesters from the nearby Occupy Providence movement to attempt to counter their rally at the Statehouse, Bracy said he witnessed the underpinnings of a more concerted effort to thwart pro-life supporters.
“They did this with military precision,” Bracy said. “These people have been trained in how to disrupt events.”
During the first half of the rally, the protesters trickled in to the Statehouse, largely keeping to the periphery and holding signs. But during the second half, as they began to coordinate their efforts, the circle began to tighten at the center of the rotunda, with protesters stepping in front of pro-life supporters, trying to cover their signs with anti-life messages.
Capitol Police stepped in several times, telling individual protesters to stop disrupting the rally. No one was ejected from the rotunda.
Bracy said he spoke with two protesters, one of whom identified himself as “Dallas,” and said they were representatives of Occupy Wall Street – a movement that originated in New York City’s Financial District on Sept. 17 to protest against major banks, corporations and Wall Street, saying those institutions are to blame for the economic recession.
On Oct. 15, a group calling itself Occupy Providence established an encampment at Burnside Park to show solidarity for the movement.
A group representing Occupy Wall Street was in Providence Thursday during a national tour to show support for local groups, and Bracy believes they helped to organize the local Occupiers to more effectively disrupt the rally.
“Had they not been there, I think we would have had five to 10 kids,” he said.
Bracy said that while the occupiers claim to represent 99 percent of Americans, they fail to factor into their statistics that more than half of all Americans consider themselves pro-life.
“Like many people, I haven’t yet been able to figure out exactly what the Occupiers stand for,” Bracy said. “Their actions today indicate that they stand for abortion and oppose the pro-life movement.”
Neil Grant, 16, a junior in Bishop Hendricken’s pro-life group, and a member of the diocese’s Human Life Guild Board, also felt inspired by the challenge pro-lifers received from the protesters.
“I think the fact they’re coming out and protesting is a sign that we’re winning,” he said.
“It’s good to have confrontation because it brings out the truth and shows which side is right.”
Grant said that support for the pro-life movement among young people is growing, noting that there are about 25 Bishop Hendricken students who are members of the school’s pro-life group.
Marking the 39th anniversary of the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion in the U.S., the pro-life supporters gathered to memorialize the 54 million unborn babies who have lost their lives to abortion since 1973, according to RISRTL. The organization also notes that approximately 23 percent of pregnancies each year in Rhode Island end in abortion.
“They don’t seem to have very much respect for life,” Joseph Daly Jr., a member of St. Francis of Assisi Parish, Wakefield, said of those protesting the rally. “We’re either pro-life, or pro-death.”
At the conclusion of the rally, Kevin McDevitt, a board member of Rhode Island State Right to Life, was in the rotunda listening to pro-life supporters and standing next to a mother and her two young girls, ages 4 and 9, when packets of condoms were thrown onto the group from above.
“The remarks were constantly being interrupted by belligerent pro-abortion protesters,” McDevitt said. “Suddenly, packets of condoms fell on and around us from the protesters on the floors above. I was appalled and highly offended that young children were attacked in this fashion.”
Elena Curran, 16, a La Salle junior, and member of the school’s pro-life group, said she was undeterred by the disruption of the protesters, which she said, only served to energize their group in its mission.
“We know what’s right,” she said. “I’m just glad to be a warrior for life.
Posted by Ed Sousa, Sr. at 7:41 PM