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24 JANUARY 2023 11:30AM: This article was updated with a corrected photo credit and additional video and photos.
Last Saturday, the yearly anti-abortion “Walk for Life” march happened in San Francisco as usual—with one major exception. The parade usually consists of mostly Catholic (and some Evangelical) church groups, many of whom get bussed in from across the Western half of the U.S. for the event. This year, however, a new group joined the march: neo-Nazis from the White Lives Matter network.d
Elizabeth was a marshal at the counter-protest by pro-abortion groups near City Hall. She told LCRW the anti-abortion crowd was heading east from their initial meeting spot at nearby Civic Center Plaza. Elizabeth and the other marshals formed a line to be a buffer between the anti-abortion march and the counter-protest.
“Of course San Francisco Police Department was there, but they’re the police department,” Elizabeth said.
When most people had left Civic Center started on the parade route, a group of four men walked through the marshals’ line. They were in tube masks, sunglasses, ball caps, long-sleeve shirts and gloves to conceal their identities. The cops let them go through. Elizabeth was holding her bike as a makeshift barrier. She turned her head and the men went up the steps of the SF Public Library where the counter-protesters were congregating. They walked into a group of people and began agitating the crowd. The crowd shouted back and a scuffle ensued.
“It took me longer than it should have to realize those were either the Proud Boys or just random fash trash,” she recalled.
Elizabeth had her friend hold her bike and charged into the scrum as the crowd was struggling with the neo-Nazis. The Nazis shouted things like “you fucking pussies” and “white babies matter.”
“We did what you do in this situation, which is push them off the steps and try to pull the banner out of their hands. Ultimately, they were pushed back into the street,” she continued.
“Then they unveiled their banner.”
The banner read “50k WHITE KIDS PER YEAR. ABORTION IS GENOCIDE.”
“Oh holy fuck, this is not just being provocative. They’re actual racists,” Elizabeth recalled thinking.
“I thought “Fucking shit, it finally happened. I knew this would happen someday,’” she said, continuing, “It’s this weird feeling of knowing—and why wouldn’t it happen? You clear space like this and it’s like a virus. You clear the space and they’ll fucking come. And they did.”
“And then they walked,” she recalled.
To LCRW’s knowledge, the neo-Nazis were able to march with the anti-abortion crowd unopposed. Photos we reviewed show they had police escorting them.
Elizabeth said that the San Francisco Archdiocese, which is one of the main organizers of the annual “Walk for Life,” should be held responsible for allowing the Nazis to march. She said the City of San Francisco always “very obediently” permits this march as well.
“Yesterday, you can say for the first time that the San Francisco Archdiocese paid for territory for white supremacists,” Elizabeth told LCRW.
While the “Walk for Life” event had a reactionary bent since it started in 2005, this may be the first time the march let open neo-Nazis spread their propaganda. While there have been attendees adjacent to white nationalism in years past, they mostly went along with the “Walk for Life” program instead of wedging their own issues in. Elizabeth, who’s been organizing against the yearly parade since it started, said it was always a multi-ethnic event.
“There’s always been nasty theocrats in it, but there’s always been aunties in it,” she said.
The California branch of WLM claimed responsibility for last Saturday’s stunt. However, the group of men who pulled it off have yet to be identified as of this writing. WLM wasn’t the only neo-Nazi group trying to use one of these events to self-promote. The same weekend at “March for Life,” the East Coast sister event to SF’s “Walk for Life,” Patriot Front was handing out recruiting leaflets. Last year, Patriot Front tried to rally in Chicago during a March for Life-branded event, although some of the anti-abortion marchers took issue with the group.
“White Lives Matter” is a loose network of neo-Nazis centered around a series of Telegram app chats and channels. They organize monthly “days of action” where they mostly drop banners or wander around public parks putting stickers on things. Despite starting off with embarrassing, poorly attended stunts in 2021, WLM has become a hub for Nazi groups to plug into. WLM provides activism manuals and kits with everything from techniques for how to hang a bedsheet with “white lives matter” written on it to talking points and strategies for how to bait passers-by into arguments. Other groups like Patriot Front and “active crews” use White Lives Matter demonstration days and film themselves spouting “pro-white” talking points, slapping stickers and hanging banners.
Elizabeth says that most of the marchers would consider what they’re doing a matter of conscience and adherence to their faith—and that many of them don’t understand who these groups are. “If you explained to them that they were walking with white supremacists, they wouldn’t believe it,” she said. “But they’re absolutely responsible for creating space where these right wing elements can come in. They’ve created this space. They’re responsible.”