Last August before we left Birmingham in caravan on I-20 behind the Pro-Life Freedom Bus on the way to Atlanta, we were warned of trouble ahead. Fr. Frank Pavone’s people were told to expect a large unhappy group protesting our arrival at the Rev. Martin Luther Kings’ tomb. Park officials were not happy and asked us not to come. Fr. Frank said we were coming anyway. Traveling north, I explained to my videographer what to expect and what would not happen because we were peaceful, as he was new to pro-life activism. The atmosphere did seem more tense and troubled than in general, than Texas.
We were stunned as we arrived to see Dr. Alveda King being thrown off the site when she attempted to place a beautiful wreath at the tomb of her Uncle. The guard would not allow her to pass the security gate, but she tried anyway. As we walked to a grassy area where the pro-abortion group stood loudly yelling slogans at us, we began to sing “We Shall Overcome.” At one point someone from the opposition grabbed Fr. Frank’s megaphone, but it was soon retrieved.
Our group of over a hundred people were forced off the square and across the street onto a small strip of a sidewalk alongside a nearby building. We went peacefully. No one became agitated, no one yelled back. The PL Freedom bus was not allowed to park. It circled ’round and ’round the square like a giant flag pausing sometimes by our group. Our treatment was pitiable. Fr. Frank and the most eloquent black leaders I have ever heard in my life other than Dr. King, crowded together like sardines in the sweltering heat on a tiny cracked sidewalk against an old brick building. They spoke healing words of truth that rang out like a bell and cut like a sword! Their eloquence brought tears to my eyes, and made some bow their heads in reverence and prayer.
The pro-abortion group, mostly young black college educated women with a smattering of men, continuously shouted at us through a megaphone from across the street. They had a permit. We had a permit also, but not for that many of us. One good thing is, no one from their camp came to our side and they were so far away we were quite unaffected. They reminded me of myself in the 70’s. Smart, hip, and thinking something was trying to be taken from them. Little did they know that God was speaking in their other ear. They didn’t get they are advocating the death of their own people but I pray someday soon they will.
I also prayed silently that God would help us suffer well as we dripped water and soaked our clothes in the extreme August humidity, that everyone would remain cool inside. I could almost hear others praying the same. The love of this group of people was palpable as we stood together, united for a cause that all present knew and felt in our hearts was just as important as the civil rights movement long ago. If we didn’t know it before, we knew then. I was glad we suffered just a little taste, so we could reflect on how much worse it was in the 1960’s. We were not spit on or beaten and our bus was not bombed. We weren’t dragged through the streets, the treatment many of our brave brothers and sisters endured back then. Although we did not appear triumphant or powerful, but we knew we were in God’s eyes for doing His will against the norm, and there was much joy and peace in our hearts. I could see it on the faces around me.
A couple of years ago at a 4o Days For Life vigil, I stood across the street from some angry young atheists. I prayed against the dark demons who held the truth from them to release them and for the Holy Spirit of God to enlighten their minds. Soon after they left, someone in a white SUV drove by and lobbed a gallon of water at me. It landed a few inches from my feet barely wetting them, and skidded across the ground to where a woman was praying the rosary facing the clinic. Inside I said to the evil one , “Is that all you’ve got?” The woman began to cry and I comforted her. “I think the evil one was mad I were praying for those kids”, I told her. A few days before at another location, a friend of mine’s sign was ripped from him and torn into pieces. It was the same white SUV as the water lobbing incident but he wasn’t physically harmed. The sign was repaired and we went on as we always do and as we always will.
Tonight there was a television program about the students from Fisk University on the original Freedom Ride in May, 1961. They were warned they might be hurt or killed and heavily discouraged to go. The group leader told the official who warned them,Athe night before each one of them made out their last will and testament. They all knew they could die in choosing to do this. Like them we must embrace non-violence as Dr. King advocated, and like them we must stay the course.
We are not as brave today I think. Maybe we are not as convinced, but we need to be. If all men are created equal and free with the same rights, then that being said, it must include the weak, helpless and children, all children, especially in the womb, because they have no voice and we must be a voice for the helpless and voiceless. It’s as plain as the nose your your face! ( Another of Mom’s old sayings! )
If you saw a woman about to allow someone to murder her tiny baby in her arms, anyone with good sense would try to stop it. The only difference is that you can’t see it. Nevertheless, it is there and it is a baby.
Not long ago the country was divided on civil rights and is now divided on abortion. Hearts and thinking can be changed and have conformed to the truth when it kept being revealed.
Our God, we send up our prayers to ask for courage and strength to stand for this truth and to be shining examples of love so that people’s minds may be made clear and hearts softened. Give us as much courage as the brave souls who were willing to sacrifice themselves for the cause of freedom in the 1960’s. They stood against the status quo and we must as well, for all people. Enough is enough! It’s been too long and far too many dying!