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On May 21st, about 50 anti-abortion protesters gathered at Shamel Park in Riverside, California for a “Babies Lives Matter” march to a nearby Planned Parenthood facility—the Riverside Family Planning Center. One hour earlier, a group of about 30 pro-abortion protesters gathered to oppose them. Though there was no physical violence, there were multiple threats of assault from both groups, and one anti-abortion protester threatened to rape someone repeatedly. Though the situation was tense throughout the dueling demonstrations, Planned Parenthood remained open throughout the day.
While their protest was billed as “Babies Lives Matter,” many right wingers had signs and flags from other right wing causes during the anti-abortion march. Several flags like the “Pine Tree” or ‘An Appeal to Heaven’ Flag and a Gadsden or ‘Don’t Tread on Me’ Flag were flown, while alleged January 6th trespasser Cristian Barajas flew a flag that read “F#ck Gavin Newsom, Latinos don’t trust Democrats anymore.” Jon and Janal Barkley, a husband and wife team from the “Inland Empire Grassroots Advocacy,” Instagram account were slated to speak; the wife flew an American flag upside down at points during the day and told pro-abortion protesters it was upside down because America had “been taken over by commies.” Her husband is listed as currently a school teacher at Frisbie Middle School. Another right-wing protest regular who goes by ‘Tracy Academia’ had a sign reading “COVID is a scam,” and “Recall Gascon” on the reverse side, referring to a far-right campaign to remove the District Attorney of neighboring Los Angeles County.
Dozens of Riverside police officers staged throughout the area. LCRW counted at least three different staging areas for RPD before they mobilized. At least three drones were flying above the Planned Parenthood. At least 6 security guards for the clinic were stationed outside its doors. Despite all of this, there was very little press attention for the event with very few people bringing cameras or video equipment.
As the “Babies Live Matter,” event began in Shamel Park, several men stood near the entrance to the park with gaiters concealing their identities. Various signs, several of which contained graphic pictures of fetal tissue of questionable provenance could be seen displayed near the park’s Arlington Avenue entrance. The group began making speeches, though several listed speakers didn’t attend. One who did show up was 2022 Republican Gubernatorial candidate Anthony Trimino, though he appeared to have left after giving his speech.
Most of the 30 or so pro-abortion protesters were wearing various amounts of black bloc—the anti-surveillance black attire intended to help conceal protesters’ identities from state and far-right surveillance. Several who appeared to be monitoring the “Babies Lives Matter” march stayed near the front entrance to a Planned Parenthood several blocks away. Bagels, Fruit By The Foot and water were stationed near the entrance and representatives of Planned Parenthood encouraged the group to be passionate but dissuaded them from violence.
Around 1PM, a group of five anti-abortion protesters stationed themselves at the back entrance to the clinic. As security for the clinic observed, several of the men began putting on either weighted or padded gloves, telling LCRW they were doing so because “it’s just cold out here,” during the sunny 70 degree day. One anti-abortion protester communicated with the larger group via a walkie-talkie. Multiple times, the group asked an LCRW reporter “where Antifa is at?”
30 minutes later, another group of 7 began joining the pro-abortion protesters at the back entrance to the clinic. All but one protester, Capital rioter Tony Moon, were wearing flag gaiters concealing their faces. Moon and one other both carried orange water bottles.
Joining five others at the back of the Planned Parenthood, Moon and his group confronted this LCRW reporter, calling them a “liar.” Unclipping his orange water bottle, Moon yelled at this reporter “you know what this is, don’t you?” Saying that they “were not a gang,” and accusing this LCRW reporter of talking shit on “right wing watch.” Asking “where your buddies at,” Moon began coordinating with the other anti-abortion demonstrators on where to find counter-protesters.
A police officer soon appeared; one member of the group complained that this reporter was “agitating them.” Another member of the anti-abortion demonstration asked if they received the same speech on the other side; a police officer confirmed that they’d given that speech twice to the pro-abortion demonstrators.
Moon then spoke into his radio that “they are going around to the backside.” Walking with about 4 others, he then spoke into the radio that “we’ll see you guys over there.” As the group began walking towards the front entrance to the Planned Parenthood the group of about 30 pro-abortion demonstrators began chanting “my body, my choice,” as several drummed a beat. One anti-abortion demonstrator had put on brass knuckles.
The two groups traded insults and on occasion threats; when a second wave of anti-abortion protesters arrived the pro-abortion group began to move back closer to the Planned Parenthood. Riverside Police moved in between the two sides and blocked street access. One pro-abortion demonstrator squirted anti-abortion demonstrators with a penis-shaped water bottle after the latter began calling the former an anti-woman slur. After police arrived, patients occasionally were led by police into the clinic.
One pro-abortion demonstrator told this LCRW reporter to “fuck off,” after noticing his press badge. He then offered a bagel to LCRW while clarifying “still, fuck off.”
At 3PM, another group of anti-abortion protesters arrived. Chanting “babies lives matter,” and calling the pro-abortion demonstrators “baby killers,” this group brought with them both sheathed knives and children. Self-identified Three Percenter Elsa Aldeguer, who has been seen alongside right wing luminaries ranging from violent pepper spray attacker David Dempsey and U.S. Representative and Anti-Semitic Conspiracy Theorist Marjorie Taylor Green, filmed the crowd. LCRW approached fringe 2021 Gubernatorial Recall candidate Sara Stephens for comment, but she did not respond. Stephens was the getaway driver for right wing brawler Aaron Simmons at an August, 2021 Wispa protest after Simmons hit filmmaker Rocky Romano over the head with a metal pipe. Simmons also hit Newsmax reporter James Klug.
As the anti-abortion protesters began praying, Stephens began holding her baby in the air. As it was a sunny day, pro-abortion protesters began chanting “put the baby in the shade.” Drums, covers of “God Bless America,” chanting from both sides and loud megaphones made it difficult to hear everything either side had to say. One anti-abortion protester yelled towards either the police or the pro-abortion protesters that they “aren’t going anywhere.” The anti-abortion protesters left about 30 minutes later.
As anti-abortion protesters left, several flashed the “OK symbol” at the pro-abortion group. Pro-abortion protesters began chanting and saying goodbye, as police told pro-abortion protesters they couldn’t leave until the anti-abortion protest group had left the area. The pro-abortion crowd chanted “Riverside is anti-fascist” alongside drums. The event eventually ended as both sides left.
A spokesperson for Planned Parenthood told LCRW that this was the first large group of protesters and counter-protesters at their Riverside location. They told LCRW that “while we sometimes do have protestors at some of our sites, we have not had any other large groups of protestors or counter-protestors at any of our health centers in Riverside County recently. No matter what, we will continue to provide compassionate, and quality health care to all who come to us. Planned Parenthood has been around for over 100 years and we’re not going anywhere. We’re here for good.” They also informed LCRW that they remained open the entire day for patients.
“We’ll always be here to meet their reproductive health needs,” they said.