[Updated 7:00 p.m. with information on coverage by other media outlets, with my thanks to Tara Bishop for the news.]
Pennacook Street in Manchester is just off Elm, the main drag of the largest city in New Hampshire (population 110,000). It’s a quiet street with triple-deckers along one side and a Planned Parenthood facility on the other. Ten pro-life witnesses can crowd the block, as I’ve seen during 40 Days for Life.
Today, a day of nationwide protest against Planned Parenthood’s baby-parts business, 175 people gathered before I stopped counting. The number of nearby parking spots was nowhere near adequate for the occasion, and people parked at whatever distance they could and arrived on Pennacook Street ten, fifteen, thirty minutes after the event kicked off. The crowd grew and grew.The nine pro-PP counter-protesters contented themselves with standing along Elm Street, half a block from the abortion facility. They couldn’t get any closer.
A police supervisor drove by as the protest began, saw that all was well, and went on his way. Security guards hired by PP kept a watchful eye on the demonstrators as they filed by. One brightly-vested “volunteer escort” was on hand at PP’s front door. Business as usual, apparently – whatever that means behind that front door.
This was a day to #ProtestPP nationwide. Those videos just keep coming, the latest describing a PP facility’s “harvesting” of a brain from a still-living not-quite-aborted fetus. Cecile Richards’s videotaped “oops” seems like it happened in another age, though it was only seven videos ago.
Enough. More than enough. In the Granite State, people stood outside five Planned Parenthood locations to call for an end to the atrocities and an end to compulsory public funding of the abortion leviathan. I was in Manchester, and the size of the crowd frankly surprised me. I’ve stood shoulder to shoulder with some of those people before. There were many new faces, though, and some of them came quite a distance to participate.
Paul Galasso, Cathy Kelley, and the team from New Hampshire Right to Life had local leadership roles. The number of national groups who signed on to #ProtestPP is staggering, but local organizers are the ones who made the demonstrations happen. “What a wonderful stand for life. God bless you all,” said a clearly delighted Jane Cormier, NHRTL president, as she looked over the crowd at the end of the two-hour event. Paul Galasso added, “This is not really the end of a protest; this is the beginning of a new higher level of awareness of the crime of abortion.”
I met Paul for the first time today. I quickly learned he’s an optimist. “We’re all going to enjoy, I think, watching the news and reading the newspapers, hopefully an awful lot of coverage on what was accomplished today.” I saw one reporter, from I don’t know what outlet [update: the New Hampshire Union Leader] who was taking photos and doing interviews. I saw a couple of professional photographers including Matthew Lomanno, who graciously gave permission for me to use his work in this post. That’s it, unless undercover journalists were present. During the event, Manchester’s ABC television affiliate – its studio a mile and a half away – tweeted about “Permaculture Day.” [Update: the station, WMUR, accepted photos of the event and plans to use them in this evening’s newscast.]
Social media filled the coverage gap not only in Manchester but around the country. I monitored Facebook and Twitter as the morning wore on, and saw that participants in many cities were posting their own photos. There’s an awful lot of coverage, all right – but legacy media is probably not going to be the place to find it.
Here’s my own testimony: people came out in Manchester, women and men alike, from college students to retirees. Whole families were there with strollers and chilled water for the kids. One enterprising Pennacook Street resident set up a 50-cent lemonade stand. There were pro-life people spilling over onto the sidewalks of Elm and Chestnut Streets. Along Elm Street, I saw the pro-life demonstrators and the few pro-PP people having quiet, civil conversations.
And that’s what happened in one city. #ProtestPP was scheduled to take place in at least 250 other cities as well.