A series of escalating attacks led to an elderly pro-life man being repeatedly viciously kicked on the sidewalk by a bicyclist in San Francisco, California, on March 19. Ron, who is a longtime campaign leader with the organization 40 Days For Life, was outside of a Planned Parenthood clinic when he was attacked. Previously, the attacker cut the group’s signature banner with a pair of scissors and knocked Ron and another volunteer to the ground.
This time, Ron attempted to stop the same attacker from stealing the sign by holding onto it and sticking the sign pole through the spokes of the man’s bike. He responded by pushing Ron to the ground with his bike, saying, “Old man, stay on the ground. Stay on the ground old man, unless you want to get hurt.” He immediately then started kicking Ron, and this is where the video ends so Ron’s companion could call 911.
Matt Britton, general counsel for 40 Days for Life, is representing Ron. The video of this attack is distressing, and going through the attack was even more so for Ron himself, who is 85 years old.
The effects of a sudden, violent attack like this can be lasting for people, something that Britton is experienced with from his past as a district attorney: “It takes a while for folks to even recover psychologically and emotionally. Violence happens very quickly. This was a much younger man, and just to go through that … I think just the whole trauma of it. I think trauma’s a really good word to describe this more than injury.”
40 Days for Life’s History in San Francisco
For the last 12 years, 40 Days for Life has held prayer vigils outside of abortion clinics like Planned Parenthood, with a peaceful history. This year’s vigil runs from March 6 to April 14, with the attack happening in front of the Planned Parenthood on Valencia Street in San Francisco. It’s one of the 90 or so campaigns happening nationwide.
40 Days for Life and their prayers on the sidewalks feature in the upcoming movie “Unplanned” about Abby Johnson, the former Planned Parenthood director turned pro-life advocate and was pivotal in her leaving the abortion giant. Their methods of engagement with those going in and out of clinics are to respectfully talk to clinic workers and mothers and to pray for them.
Shawn Carney, the president and CEO of 40 Days for Life, issued a statement about the altercation: “40 Days for Life vigils have a 12-year track record of being peaceful. This attack on an 85-year old man–who has been leading the San Francisco campaign for years—by a young aggressor shows that the idea that San Francisco is tolerant is a joke. We believe every person should be treated with kindness, love and respect, even those with whom we may disagree. That said, over the past few months, we have seen an increase in violence from abortion supporters in an effort to instill fear and deter our law-abiding volunteers.”
Response by the Police Department
Ron’s attacker has not been identified yet. Life Legal Defense Fund, a California-based pro-life legal firm, is working with 40 Days for Life to pass out fliers in the neighborhood in hopes that someone will recognize him and give that information to the police.
Britton is optimistic that the community will help Ron find justice: “A lot of people like that say, I don’t like this either. I’m pro-choice. But what happened to that old man that wasn’t right. And they’ll say, ‘Here’s the guy.’”
On the other hand, Planned Parenthood has not been helpful with apprehending Ron’s attacker, as Britton explains: “Planned Parenthood said that they would not give out their surveillance videos.” It’s also worth pointing out, and emphasizing here, that the unprovoked violence here came not from the pro-life activists, but from the pro-choice passerby.
It’s important to share stories when altercations like this occur because peaceful demonstration and prayer is a protected First Amendment right we must defend. Ron had the right, too, to defend himself and his property. There is no need to passively sit by and let someone destroy your possessions, especially when those possessions are being used to bring truth and hope to others.
Keep Ron and all of those praying for hope during the 40 Days for Life in your prayers, and let’s hope that no further violence occurs.