Far-right groups hold anti-abortion rallies in Santa Monica

Anti-abortion protests by far-right groups in several states in the weeks following the Supreme Court’s overturning of the Roe v. Wade case, including one on July 9 near the Planned Parenthood-Santa Health Center Monica, and another scheduled for this weekend in Santa Monica, have raised concerns from some law enforcement authorities about possible clashes and outbreaks of violence.

A far-right group, AmericanMade Patriots, will hold a “Babies’ Lives Matter” protest at Palisades Park in Santa Monica on Saturday morning, a representative for the group said.

Saturday’s protest follows a protest last week outside the Santa Monica Planned Parenthood Clinic, which was attended by participants affiliated with the right-wing neo-fascist group the Proud Boys, marching in their yellow and black attire. They are expected to show up at the protest in Palisades Park.

In response, several abortion rights groups across Los Angeles are staging counter-protests outside the health clinic on Saturday.

“They’re still a threat,” said Adam Lerman, a community organizer with the Coalition Advocating for Affirmative Action, Integration and Immigrant Rights, and Fighting for Equality By Any Means Necessary ( BAMN).

BAMN was unaware of last week’s anti-abortion protest in time to form a counter-protest, Lerman said. Since then, the group has shared fliers on social media and spent this week partnering with other local abortion rights organizations.

“If we don’t act, they will definitely continue to grow and feel bolder and more capable,” Lerman said, referring to far-right groups.

Social media posts from the July 9 protest in Santa Monica include videos of members of right-wing affiliated groups, some carrying weapons such as sap knives and gloves, outside the Planned Parenthood clinic.

Santa Monica Police Department spokesman Lt. Rudy Flores said there was a verbal altercation at the July 9 event between anti-abortion and abortion rights protesters, but no arrests were made.

“The priority of the SMPD and the City of Santa Monica is the safety of our residents and visitors while supporting peaceful protests, town hall meetings and the rights of all individuals when exercising their right to free speech from first amendment,” Flores said in an email. statement.

He added that the police department is aware of protests and counter-protests planned for the weekend. Flores said the Santa Monica Police Department will have officers stationed at both locations.

Stephanie Gutierrez, a BAMN organizer who is helping coordinate Saturday’s counter-protests, said far-right extremists have been emboldened by the Supreme Court’s ruling. This, in turn, has galvanized abortion rights activists.

“We will not wait for elections, ballot initiatives or the courts to protect our fundamental rights,” Gutierrez said. “We will fight in the streets as the civil rights movement did and we will do so by any means necessary.”

Santa Monica Mayor Sue Himmelrich said local authorities did not expect violence on Saturday. Nor do they expect a large, centralized crowd of far-right protesters.

However, Himmelrich added, “We are always concerned about any potential threat to our community and its impact on those who live in Santa Monica.”

Chris Reyes, who identified himself to The Times as one of the main organizers of Saturday’s anti-abortion protest by AmericanMade Patriots, said he urges members to remain nonviolent and expects the protest be peaceful.

“We’re not looking to cause trouble,” he said. “We just want to be there to show people that it’s okay to be unafraid and to stand up for what you believe in.”

Reyes said the Proud Boys weren’t initially invited to the protests, but found out about the event through social media and word of mouth.

“We are just trying to protect everyone, especially women and children,” he said.

Reyes said members of her group will speak out against termination of pregnancy and in support of helping pregnant people find alternatives to abortion.

“We really just want to celebrate life,” Reyes said.

The Santa Monica protests are part of a growing trend among right-wing organizations to stage abortion-related protests across the country, both before the Supreme Court ruling and after.

Roudabeh Kishi, director of research and innovation at Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project, a nonprofit that tracks political violence and protests, said there have been 30 protests related to the abortion involving far-right groups across the country since the start of the year – up from 10 in 2021 and four such events the year before.

“We’re worried about that,” Kishi said. “We are trying to examine how recent events have led to an increase in protests.”

Kishi and other analysts say increased activism by abortion rights advocates has been met with more aggressive tactics in response from far-right extremist groups. Counter-protests are more likely to turn violent if protesters on either side are armed, Kishi said.

“Those are basically the factors of a perfect storm,” Kishi said.

Abortion-related protests have been mostly non-violent across the country. There have been 11 recorded abortion-related protests so far this year that have turned violent or destructive, all of which have involved participants affiliated with the Proud Boys, Kishi said.

Last week, there had been 839 abortion-related protests since the announcement of the Supreme Court’s ruling on June 24, and 1,728 protests since the start of this year, Kishi said. That’s three times more than last year, Kishi added.

Numbers have also increased in California.

There have been 191 abortion-related protests year-to-date across the state, more than half since the Supreme Court ruling. In Los Angeles, there have been 35 protests, including about 19 in the past month, according to the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project.

Governor Gavin Newsom said California will maintain statewide access to legal abortion. Of the protests that have taken place in California this year, four have involved far-right groups, according to the nonprofit.

Days after a draft Supreme Court ruling in favor of overturning Roe v. Wade was leaked in May, about 50 people, consisting of members of the Three Percenters and AmericanMade Patriots, marched to the Riverside Clinic Planned Parenthood for an anti-abortion protest.

There were also around 30 counter-protesters. Members of both groups were visibly equipped with brass knuckles, but no altercation was recorded.

Earlier this year, thousands of people against abortion took part in a “Walk for Life” rally at San Francisco City Hall, including Catholic leaders and students and a small group of Proud Boys . There were about 100 counter-protesters in favor of abortion access, Kishi said.

The Department of Homeland Security warned of a possible upsurge in political violence in May after the Supreme Court’s draft opinion leaked.

DHS spokeswoman Tess Hyre said the agency is working with law enforcement across the country to address potential acts of violence by right-wing extremists.

“Freedom of speech and the right of Americans to protest peacefully are fundamental constitutional rights,” Hyre said in an emailed statement. “However, these rights do not extend to violence and other illegal activities.”

Los Angeles Times

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