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On those “mostly peaceful” protests

Every year for over forty years, hundreds of thousands of protesters have gathered in Washington D.C. and have borne witness to just what a truly peaceful protest should look like.

People walk up Constitution Avenue headed toward the U.S. Supreme Court while participating in the 47th annual March for Life in Washington Jan. 24, 2020. (CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz, Long Island Catholic)

The elites in the mainstream press are at great pains these days to assure us that the violence and mayhem we are witnessing in our country is really only a small by-product of protests which, in the main, are “mostly peaceful.” Protesters gather in Portland and attempt to burn down a federal building–with federal employees still in the building–yet, the protest was “mostly peaceful.” A few thousand folks burn a police precinct in Seattle and take over a section of the city for weeks. The life’s work of the business owners in the area is destroyed, mayhem reigns within the ‘autonomous zone,’ a 19-year old is even murdered, yet, the protest was “mostly peaceful.” In Wisconsin a state senator is beaten up.

Innocent motorists are surrounded and terrorized on city streets. Each morning we wake up to news of cities burning, our emergency rooms clogged with the injured, even dead bodies being hauled to funeral homes, and, yet, we should ignore all this since the protests are, according to our secular press, “mostly peaceful.”

Much has been and will be written about these “mostly peaceful” protests from the philosophical and political implications underlying them to the deleterious impacts they may have on society. Yet, there is a larger point to be made, a contrast to be drawn which is startling, even shocking.

Every year for over forty years, hundreds of thousands of protesters have gathered in Washington D.C. and have borne witness to just what a truly peaceful protest should look like–the annual March for Life.

Consider: for over forty years tens of thousands upon tens of thousands of people have been gathering regularly to protest one of the greatest injustices in human history–the deprivation of what even Thomas Jefferson, a Deist, recognized as a fundamental human right, the right to life. How many buildings have been burned down in all those years? How many people injured? How many businesses destroyed? How many people murdered?

It staggers the imagination. Millions of people over the years have participated in the “March for Life.” The law of averages says that at least some small fringe element would succeed in fomenting violence of some sort at some point. Instead? Virtually nothing.

Indeed, so peaceful has the March been that the folks over at The Washington Post, The New York Times, CNN, MSNBC, and Co. actually had to manufacture an ‘incident’ a couple of years ago in an attempt to discredit a popular protest movement which has so consistently borne witness to the love of Christ undergirding it. I’m referring, of course, to the Nick Sandman incident. Oh, how the press was overcome with horror. A young kid (no offense Mr. Sandman) awkwardly smiling at a Native American who was banging a drum in his face. That’s it. A kid smiling. That’s the best ‘violence’ the secular press has been able to come up with. Yet, they professed themselves appalled at such behavior. And even that turned out to be contrived when later video showed it was, in fact, the activist who confronted the kid, invaded his space, and banged a drum in the kid’s face.

How often, when witnessing the depredations and machinations of the secular Left, do we find ourselves speculating, “If a pro-lifer did that, the press would…?” It’s a rhetorical question. We know the answer. Were we to act as the Left, the press would demand martial law be declared. Yet in asking the question, we miss the more important question as to how it is possible that pro-life proponents can gather in numbers far larger than BLM and Antifa with nary any violence?

There’s really only one answer; an answer summed up in two, simple words: God’s grace.

I’d wager the lion’s share of those reading this piece have prayed for the March for Life over the years. Prayed that the Lord would protect the Marchers. Prayed the Marchers would give witness to Christ’s love. Prayed the March would convert hearts and change law. The Marchers, themselves, pray for the same.

The result? An annual, truly peaceful witness to both Truth and Truth’s Love, the quiet conversion of some hearts, and at least some progress in changing minds and laws. In short, prayers answered. Grace given and received.

The “world,” as Our Lord used the term, cannot see this. They cannot recognize it because they could not and will not recognize Him. It sneers at the March. The secular press alternates its coverage of the March from hate–i.e., the Nick Sandman business–to contemptuous silence. Yet they are ravenously, even sympathetically, drawn to the violent; the secular leftists throwing frozen water bottles, shouting vulgar epithets at police, burning buildings and Bibles, and beating up and terrorizing the innocent. The world recognizes its own and it rushes to protect them.

There is a temptation in all this, the temptation for faithful Catholics to despair, to sense we are playing a game in which the deck is stacked against us. A tweet goes out from some eager social media activist, a few thousand gather to provide cover while a few hundred perpetrate their violence, and overnight the political agenda of the radical Left–a small minority–is moved to the forefront of the national discussion and achieves in a fortnight what forty years of truly peaceful protest by pro-lifers has struggled to achieve. In cities across the nation police departments are variously defunded, statues toppled, writers and thinkers cancelled.

It is so very easy for the worldly since the violence they wield is the world’s tool. Our Lord’s ways, we know, are not the ways of the world. Nor can they be ours. We all know this, yet it is important to constantly return to this central truth. His Kingdom is not of this world. The world seeks to be on ‘the right side of history.’ We should focus on being on the right side of He Who will judge history.

When facing such a temptation, we do well to remember Mother Teresa’s counsel: “We are called upon not to be successful, but to be faithful.” That is what the March for Life has done for over forty years. We should rejoice and be glad for this in these tempestuous time; thankful for this gleaming light placed high in its lampstand, even as the world rushes away from it in its pell-mell scramble toward the darkness.

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About Alan L. Anderson 17 Articles
Alan L. Anderson teaches theology at the Chesterton Academy of the Sacred Heart in Peoria, Ill.


  1. Mr Anderson is 100% correct.You could even add The Tea Party March’s and our President Trumps Rally’s to The March For Life as a comparison to anarchy,madness,hate,and rioting
    we see daily in the MSM & Net’s as the “darkness” of Evil washes over them.

    • Your president is a racist, immoral, power grabbing , cheating liar who has no feelings for the people who are suffering and have died from COVID-19. He sends in storm troopers to cause more destruction and injuries in protest areas. Wake up and take a good long look at this man who you think has your best interest at heart.

      • Better take a deep breath. Your thinking is clouded by the media and the progressive trope. Federal law enforcement officers were sent in to protect a Federal building from looters and vandals when the city and state government decided that they are not responsible for law and order and that law and order are bad things. There were no storm troopers. Really. You are having an episode or some thing similar. Of course President Trump is an egomaniac. Right there with the last president and pretty much everyone holding elected office right now. IF Oregon and Portland don’t want the court house great. They can stop paying taxes and every single aspect of federal support can be withdrawn. I would vote to let them secede myself.

      • President Trump is now and will be recognized by history as one of the greatest Presidents in the history of the United States for his courageous, repeated, public executive actions opposing the horror of millions of abortions, vicious national anti-Christian bigotry and hatred, immoral Democratic Marxist and Socialist greed, envy, and anarchistic violence, and the cynical and uninhibited lust for power and domination of Pelosi, Schumer, Schiff, Hirono, Waters, Blumenthal, and scores of other Democratic politicians. The heroic state and local police and federal law enforcement officers who have been the thin blue line against brutally violent mobs in Seattle, Portland, New York, Washington, and Chicago have prevented these and other cities from sinking into the abyss of anarchy. You yourself need to wake and take a good long look at yourself and your Trump Derangement Syndrome that is like acid corroding your decency, humanity, and common sense.

        • Agree. The never ending biased, unbased denunciations of President Trump are really puzzling. I mean what has he done to be called a racist, he has tried to improve minority employment by employing innovative strategies, which prior to the Covid were effective. I get that fact that he has led a less than stellar private life, prior to be president. But lets be frank, that life was by any standard better than the Kennedies, Clintons etc., which they the Kenndies and Clintons continued while in public life, and President Trump has left no dead bodies in the wake like the forementioned. Another thing President Trump has not sent American Soldiers to war under dubious pretences, like the Bushes. As president Mr Trumph as fulfilled his promise on being pro life by his very aggressive pro life appointments. It’s rather ironic, but I’ll say it, he is a God send to America.

      • Most of us who live or work in DC avoid the city when this nonsense happens annually.

        Your protesters are rude, and the kids are allowed to harass others.

        I am ashamed to be a Catholic when I’ve been caught in the middle of this.

        Not to mention that the largest groups represented are the Catholic clergy (presumed to be celibate), preteens & teenagers, and old white people. My 88 year old aunt pointed that out to me btw – a woman who has been attending Mass daily since her children left school. So the women who you want to force to have babies? The women whose own health is risked if her miscarriage doesn’t abort naturally?

        They stayed home.

        There is no “prolife” to your obsession. You have not spoken out against police violence. The bishops did not march to free children at the border – children who are probably Catholic but aren’t white.

        Christ weeps.

        • “I am ashamed to be a Catholic when I’ve been caught in the middle of this.”

          The competition is stiff, but you are in the running for “most telling comment of the week”…

  2. [W]e do well to remember Mother Teresa’s counsel: “We are called upon not to be successful, but to be faithful.”
    One of the reasons I’ve tended to sour on the Pro-Life movement is the lack of attention given to contraception/sterilization. It is seen as aside issue, not fundamental to the problem.
    It was only a little over one hundred years ago contraception was seen as a fairly disgusting habit by Protestants as well as Catholics. Now, of course, Catholics join with Protestants in its acceptance, as well as the acceptance of IVF and vaccines produced from fetal cell lines.
    If we had been faithful, we would have been successful.

  3. And yet, after all these years, it STILL has not dawned on the MSM that we, upon whom they look down so disdainfully, have lost virtually all faith in them.

    • Speaking only of the effectiveness of the March for Life, isn’t there a place for the civil disobedience practiced and preached by Gandhi or MLK? Just think of the effects if only a fraction of the current marchers sat down, linked arms, prayed and peacefully refused to be moved from the capital mall? Maybe just a few days before congressional recess. MSM would be forced to cover it and if it were truly peaceful, might serve to shine a positive light on the pro-life movement. For as it is now, no one covers it and the mall area basically shuts down for a day.

      Maybe that’s how the uncountable prayers of nearly 50 years of pro-life advocacy was meant to be manifested?

    • They are blind and ignorant. I think i know who’s pulling their strings Terence. Pray one day some of the puppets will wake up.

  4. “Prayed that the Lord would protect the Marchers. Prayed the Marchers would give witness to Christ’s love. Prayed the March would convert hearts and change law.” Two out of three ain’t bad, I guess.

  5. In your first paragraph, you start with the falsehood that “A few thousand folks burn a police precinct in Seattle.” We have first hand witnesses that confirm that the isolated instances of violence and burning of buildings is conducted by infiltrators who violate the general agreement of this peaceful movement. I personally know MANY people who live in the area who attend the marches, and they ALL tell me that your characterization is false.

    Secondly, the videos also show that it is not “2,000 people.” Instead, only a small handful of people have taken advantage of the unrest to do things that are directly in contradiction to the intentions of the vast majority of the protesters. These individuals insert themselves in a crowd and then, from that position, they throw things and create havoc, trying to make it appear as if all of the people in the crowd are in agreement with them, which they are not.

    Thirdly, (but perhaps most important) is that the protesters self-identify as peaceful. John Lewis, recently deceased, was one of their icons, as was the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Burning, looting and destruction violates the blessed memory of these devoutly Christian men, the intentions and methods by which this movement judges itself. Yet you call them “the secular left.” I’ve got news for you, “the left” is not “secular.” Some MAY be – but the issues of human rights for which these people march and protest – the simple goal of treating black people the same way we treat other Americans – is NOT SECULAR. And it is PRO-LIFE, despite your obvious efforts to place it in opposition to the anti-abortion movement.

    The “Black Lives Matter” movement, which you don’t even mention in your article, despite it being the entire motivation for the protests, is a continuation of the civil rights movement of the 1960’s in which John Lewis was beaten so severely on the Edmund Pettus Bridge that he nearly died. In the spirit of peaceful resistance, he did not retaliate. The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave up his life for this movement and HE was not “secular.” This movement is led and fueled by CHRISTIANS, and it always has been.

    History tells us that it OFTEN happens that violent people will attach themselves to a movement – for various reasons of their own – reasons that are not in concert with the stated aims of the majority of the protesters. I remember watching the looters running down the street with electronics under their arms during the Watts riots of Los Angeles, years ago. I remember feeling mad that those people would muddy the waters by doing illegal things and thereby destroying the message. In the same way, I am mad at the people who have injected violence into the protests that were supposed to be peaceful.

    Much of the violence must also be blamed on the police who I have seen target journalists recording the events and peaceful seniors. There is audio-visual proof of these illegal acts on the part of the police, as well as audio evidence of police plotting how to “plant” evidence in order to arrest and jail innocent people. Like a dictator in a fascist country, Trump sent camouflaged secret police to “Democrat run” cities, much as Hitler did with his brown shirts, in a partisan, unconstitutional attack against the American people – something we have never seen in our country – and something to which the governors and mayors have objected. Without coordinating with the local authorities so that the right kind of “help” could be sent by the Federal government, Trump pushed his secret police onto the streets where they not only attacked, beat and shot at Americans, but they also threw them in unmarked vans and subjected them to interrogation while at the same time refusing to identify who they were and which agency they represented. These illegal actions were taken against peaceful protesters and journalists – not just the handful of people who violated the peaceful spirit of the movement.

    Painting an entire movement with the actions of a few is wrong. It is misleading in that it causes people to believe that a peaceful, righteous movement is violent and illegitimate. Whatever selfish motives those violent people have, it is not fair to paint everyone else with the same motives.

    Also, pitting the anti-abortion marches against the civil rights marches and trying to assert that “our march is better than your march” is immature and petty.

    The “Black Lives Matter” movement is a pro-life movement, just as much as the anti-abortion movement. It is primarily inspired by CHRISTIAN principles, as well as American Constitutional guidelines. It isn’t your enemy, and you shouldn’t be encouraging people to look upon it with the jaundiced eye that you’ve used in this opinion piece.

    • You know, there are differences between the the statement ” black lives matter”, the black lives matter movement and the black lives matter organization.
      The statement is something that every Christian can agree with. The movement is problematic because of its association with the organization and the organization itself is opposed to traditional Christianity.

      • No, I will not.

        Please check John Lewis’ record on voting for social programs that support the children you insist need to be born.

        Then check to see who cuts food stamps. Who cuts prenatal care. Who cuts access to insurance for poor women.

        It doesn’t do a lot of good to let a child be born if you’re going to condemn them to poverty & hunger.

        • “It doesn’t do a lot of good to let a child be born if you’re going to condemn them to poverty & hunger.”

          The good of life is a good that stands alone. Both of my parents were born into and raised, for many years, in real poverty. I, for one, am glad that they were killed.

  6. Ms. Parnell,
    Your misapplication of terms is not lost on this audience. Twice you use the term “Pro-Life” and associate it with BLM and the protesters. Thrice you use the term “anti-abortion,” twice applied to the Pro-Life movement and once to the Pro-Life marches. This deliberate hijacking of terms is disingenuous at best and easily recognized. When has the March for Life ever referred to itself as “anti-abortion?” Never. It has always been a Pro-Life movement and a Pro-Life March for Life.

    You mention that audio evidence exists of police plotting how to “plant” evidence on order to arrest and jail innocent people. Please produce this evidence.

    “Thirdly (but perhaps most important) is that the protesters self-identify as peaceful” you wrote. Well, I can self-identify as a Stillson wrench but that does not alter the reality that I am not a Stillson wrench. I am a human being. Protesters can self-identify as peaceful all that they want but a violent protest is still a violent protest no matter how much that they protesters self-identify as peaceful.

    You make no mention of the Federal Government sending in forces to protect federal property. Or is that unacceptable to you? Do you condone the burning down of federal buildings? Surely not. Or perhaps it is fine as long as it is done peacefully?

    Your logic is tortured and your text serves as a primer on how the Left and/or the protesters think. It is very revealing of self-deception. Your argument is well and passionately made. Authentic Pro-Life law abiding Americans are not buying it.

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