by Katelyn To and Sebastian Squire
“I’m gonna keep going, even if I am the only person out there,” said Moxie Marsh, Las Lomas junior and organizer of counter-protests at Walnut Creek’s Planned Parenthood.
Every Tuesday from 7:00 AM through 7:00 PM, two groups of people have gathered in front of the Planned Parenthood building on Oakland Boulevard and protested simultaneously—one group in support of Planned Parenthood, and the other against it.
Around 11:00 AM October 13, security guards, who had been privately hired by 40daysforlife, a pro-life group of demonstrators, pepper sprayed pro-choice protestors. One of these protesters was photographerTrevor Henrich: “I was live-streaming from the Planned Parenthood parking lot while photographing with my other hand…I crouched, which led to them to walk towards me and demand I step back. I stepped back and crouched again when they pepper sprayed me,” said Henrich.
Planned Parenthood employees immediately assisted him afterwards. “Because I was alone, I blindly found my way to the Planned Parenthood front door, where I was met by two medical employees that filled their personal water bottles with water and almond milk, along with giving me at least six ice packs,” he said. “My hands felt like they had been submerged in boiling water all night after the incident. Some folks were hurt more than me and maintained temporary blindness through the day/night.” Henrich has stated that he plans to press charges.
Protest organizer Moxie Marsh was surprised when she witnessed the incident. “They had armed guards out there on Saturday and Monday too when it was just me sitting across the street doing my homework,” Marsh said. “They’d come over and watch me but never really interacted. They were literally just doing this to prove that they could. There was no method to the madness.”
Marsh had to leave periodically to attend classes, but she returned between each class out of fear that others would be pepper sprayed as well on that day. “When I went after school, I was honestly just trying to make sure the people who were still out there felt safe,” she said.
Another member of the pro-choice group who was peppersprayed was Amy Prindle. Prindle said the incident was a result of unclear messaging from the private security guards: “One guard was telling us it was okay to walk through on the sidewalk while another one immediately busted out his pepper spray to block any of us from walking on the sidewalk.” Pindle also said that she and her fellow protestors “have clear video evidence that [the guards] created the chaos and were the ones that escalated the situation.” According to Prindle, following being pepper sprayed, she found her way to the door of Planned Parenthood where “amazing nurses helped me by rinsing my eyes out and providing me water to drink.” Prindle also stated she intends to press charges.
According to Prindle, one of the private security guards attempted to draw his firearm after she was maced. “Next thing I heard while squatting blind was ‘He’s drawing his [expletive] gun! He’s drawing his [expletive] gun!” Fortunately, no shots were fired.
According to NBC News Bay Area, the Walnut Creek Police Department has not made any arrests, as of the time of publication. Currently, they are investigating and will submit their reports to the local district attorney. The district attorney could not immediately be reached for comment.
40DaysForLife, the pro-life group involved, released a statement on October fourteenth, the day following the protest, regarding the incident.. They blamed the ‘antifa agitators’ and ‘anarchists’ for the incident. “When activists using antifa-style tactics…(who previously physically threatened and blew marijuana in our volunteers’ faces) arrived and antagonized the off duty officers [security guards], the professional guards took protective action, including using mace against the hostile individuals.” The statement also said that the pepper spray canisters “were used solely at the discretion of the third-party security team.” The firm from which the security guards were hired, Off Duty Officers, was not immediately available for comment. 40DaysForLife also expressed gratitude for the fact “that incidents have been extremely rare.”
When asked what actions she might take if she attends another counterprotest, Prindle said, “Even though I was at least six feet away from the [pro-life demonstrators] on the public sidewalk, next time I will stand at least eight feet away.”