"I'm calling the police." These are words all activists may have to use on any given day during an outreach event in the public square.
When violence or assault happens, it may take a second to recover from the initial shock, but we must be alert and ready to take action if needed.
The video of an assault on Seth Drayer of Created Equal is a perfect example of what to do if you are confronted with violence or hostility: Remain calm and FILM EVERYTHING.
In an interview about the assault, Seth told Sean Hannity, "It was just another day downtown." If we are doing our jobs well, then people are bound to get angry. They may be angry at themselves, a former boyfriend or girlfriend, a parent, even us -- but they are angry because they are hurt and broken. They may have had or participated in an abortion, and are being forced to confront that guilt.
San Francisco State University is a pretty liberal campus. As with many liberal campuses, some students react with hostility when they see us. The last time I was there, a student was so angry about our presence that she slapped one of my teammates' arms in an attempt to knock her pro-life literature to the ground. My teammate, Hannah, followed the girl to press charges. Hannah told police that she would accept an apology if the student was warned that assaulting people is a crime. During what was supposed to be a short, supervised apology, the student began crying, confessed having had an abortion, and allowed Hannah to comfort and hug her. Her violence was a result of deep pain she'd been suffering because of her abortion.
There have been a number of videos in the last few years of violence against anti-abortion activists. They have circulated in the conservative, pro-life blogosphere, but been ignored by mainstream media.
When an elderly woman was beat up by a Planned Parenthood supporter in Delaware, she was even taken to the hospital with injuries, but media refused to cover the story. Her video shows her tenaciously filming a young girl being wheeled away from the Planned Parenthood on a gurney because of a botched abortion before the Planned Parenthood supporter hits her and takes her camera. The sidewalk counselor was undeterred and returned to counseling women when she recovered.
When Thrin Short was assaulted by a university professor who had first stolen a sign from Thrin and her sister, her video was what compelled police to arrest the assailant. The video shows Thrin and her sister bravely filming and calling the police while the professor repeatedly pushes her. Notably, their group continued their outreach which resulted in the distribution of about 900 informational pamphlets, each of which provided lifesaving information to at least one student.
More recently, one of our own team members was assaulted at Portland State University. Despite being slapped in the face by an angry student, Lauren stayed calm, called the police who pressed assault charges on the student, and persisted in showing the truth.
One of the marks of an activist is not backing down when faced with adversity. We may be mocked, scorned, bruised, beaten up, falsely accused, or even falsely imprisoned for showing the truth about abortion. However, that treatment is no different than what activists experienced in any other social justice movement in history. Our perseverance through these scary scenarios will pay off. We have an ambitious goal when we are on the street... The information we share is saving lives. Persisting through adversity and violence is not just a challenge, it is our sacred duty.
Press on, abortion abolitionists! Persevere!