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Just days after a Politico report revealed that the U.S. Supreme Court was preparing to strike down Roe v. Wade, a right-wing group planned to protest a Planned Parenthood clinic in Highland Park, California. The protest took place May 7th. Among the attendees was a man who was taken into Federal custody after threatening to carry out a school shooting, a fringe Beverly Hills City Council candidate that once punched a cancer survivor at an anti-mask protest outside a breast cancer clinic, several TradCaths, and a former amateur MMA fighter who assaulted an LCRW contributor on camera.
Just one day after the Politico piece, Jairo Rodriguez put out a call via his instagram streaming channel “Right Now Views” for people to join his “Pro-Life Rally,” calling on people to bring signs, flags and bullhorns to the Los Angeles neighborhood. Rallies Rodriguez participates in are often violent and right-wingers usually come with the intent to do harm. During an anti-vaccine protest at Dodger’s Stadium, Rodriguez was visibly trembling after a group of antifascists assembled and attempted to stop his group from gathering in front of the building. Rodriguez and others were trying to repeat a previous incident that resulted in the stadium’s emergency vaccine distribution being shut down. At anti-trans rallies Rodriguez promotedat WiSpa, a Korean spa in Los Angeles, violent right-wing demonstrators were forced to leave the area by antifascists—but not before they instigated multiple acts of violence. One anti-trans demonstrator stabbed two people—one an antifascist counter-protester and the other an anti-trans protester. There was also a brawl at the WiSpa protest with an SPLC-identified hate group called“Official Street Preachers.”Someone grabbed a transphobic sign and in the ensuing scuffle one “street preacher” shoved a woman into a tree. The fight ended with the street preacher being hit in the face with a skateboard.
After the flyer for the Planned Parenthood protest went out, a competing flier calling to “defend planned parenthood,” was circulated. In response, Jairo posted his flier a second time and insisted that “there is nothing to fear.” The night before the event, he went live and talked about the protest, neglecting to mention at any point that there would be a counter-protest.
Craig Walterscheid, an ardent anti-abortion protester soon began promoting the flyer as well. Walterscheid spends a great deal of his time protesting Planned Parenthood clinics. He also defaces currency with anti-abortion slogans and complains when they’re rejected as deposits by ATMs. Walterscheid runs a website covered with anti-abortion messages, calling on supporters to vote for him “for any office,” and promising that he will “expose & oppose the offspring of hell in government so that we may once again be a nation with liberty and justice for all.”
Many signs carried by anti-abortion protesters were designed by Ohio-based “Created Equal,” an organization which compares abortion to the Holocaust and has been widely criticized for its finances. According to its IRS filings in 2019 Created Equal, a 501c3, paid its founder Mark Harrington more than $100,000 of its nearly $500,000 in wages. The other 24 employees averaged less than $19,000 per year. The organization brought in $1.7 million in income that year. Charity Navigator, a website that ranks the accountability and transparency of 501c3 non-profit organizations gave them a failing score in the category of “finance & accountability.”
Created Equal are one of the leading providers of signs with large, blown-up pictures of fetal tissue: many of the photos shown are of abortions in its rarest and latest form, or were stillborn, or were stolen from disposal facilities and even in several cases were stitched together from multiple fetal sources to present a “Frankenstein”-like image. Created Equal does “street outreach,” and often goes to K-12 schools and college campuses as well as near abortion providers throughout the country. Utilizing both aggressive tactics and a 10×12 foot “jumbotron,” they’ve visited and televised their large pictures at campuses in Gainesville, Florida, Tallahassee, Florida, and Louisville, Kentucky. A large part of their campaign highlights pro-life quotes from college and high school students. They encourage others to utilize “street materials,” even providing a downloadable toolkit that anti-abortion demonstrators can use to “begin defending babies on the street, in the classroom, at work, and more.”
Several days before, Rodriguez posted the same flyer seemingly fearing a low turnout. In all capital letters, he told his audience that “if babies aren’t worth rallying for than what is.” The night before, he hopped on an Instagram live with January 6th rioter Brynna Makowka and told his audience of less than twenty people that “tomorrow we have a big rally at Planned Parenthood.”
The next day at noon, counter-protesters began to fill the area in front of the Highland Park Planned Parenthood. About 30 counter-protesters eventually arrived, taping a sign that said “abortion rights now!” to a street sign. LAPD officers staged nearby—at first three and eventually around 40. Vehicles mostly in support of the pro-abortion demonstrators honked their horns.
A representative from Planned Parenthood eventually arrived, telling the group of counter-protesters that “a lot of emotions are relatively heated from a lot of folks. I know that there’s a chance for clashing, and I want to make sure to do the best we can to maintain a safe environment…” Asking counter-protesters to “protest safely,” he called for the group to make sure that they and the anti-abortion crowd were separate and voiced his wishes for the clinic to remain open for patients.
About 30 minutes later, Mike Ancheta drove past the protesters. Posting to his Instagram account, he referred to “possible violence around 2.” Ancheta is well-known to Los Angeles-based antifascist researchers after getting involved in numerous altercations and attacks over the last few years. Ancheta’s expressed his desire to murder people on camera before. In March during a protest by a fringe communist group at L.A. City Hall, he muttered that “commies get the rope” into his phone camera. Ancheta is also no stranger to working alongside violent groups. During the previously-mentioned WiSpa protest, he was with a group of Proud Boys when he tried, unsuccessfully, to roundhouse kick someone. One of his most egregious assaults left LCRW contributor Vishal P Singh with a concussion. At the Planned Parenthood, Ancheta was the first protester to arrive but was identified by a counter-protester who told him he “looks like shit as per usual,” as he drove away in his vehicle.
Soon after, a vehicle with anti-abortion signs sponsored by groups like traditionalist Catholic (TradCath) disinformation outlet Church Militant drove past. The outlet was formerly known as “Real Catholic TV,” until the Archdiocese of Detroit informed them they were not authorized to use the word ‘Catholic’ in their branding. After calling Cardinal Wilton Gregory, the first African-American Cardinal, an “accused homosexual,” “Marxist” and an “African Queen,” the Catholic Church denounced Church Militant, calling their words “racist,” and informed worshippers that the outlet “is not affiliated with, endorsed, or recommended by the Archdiocese of Detroit.” A believer in his own “reversion,” Voris has admitted that he himself “lived a life of live-in relationships with homosexual men.” The vehicle with Church Militant propaganda had a “MY BODY, MY CHOICE” bumper sticker with a syringe on it—a leftover from the antivaxx/COVID denial trend for right-wing protests.
Around 2:20, a group of less than ten protesters arrived across the street of the Planned Parenthood. Telling the group that the counter-protesters were “insane,” Rodriguez began setting Walterscheid’s large graphic posters alongside a baby carriage loaded with a suitcase containing plastic dolls. One counter-protester stole and ripped the signs to cheers from the pro-abortion crowd. Rodriguez, a constant sign theft victim, soon began walking towards the group. Counter-protesters dared him to walk closer, but Rodriguez eventually abandoned the idea of recovering the signs himself, even as pro-abortion protesters encouraged him to get closer to them.
Walterscheid began insisting to the crowd that he “was born when Mexicans were not allowed to live in Huntington Park.” His wife began chanting prayers while swinging a rosary. Rodriguez asked several counter-protesters who had walked to his side of the group “if they were a Muslim.” A counter-protester stole yet another sign.
Soon, fringe Beverly Hills City Council candidate Shiva Bagheri began walking alongside counter-protesters while shouting via megaphone that they “help deadbeat dads, and that they “have no souls.” Bagheri is probably best known for organizing the “Beverly Hills Freedom Rally,” a weekly Trump rally during the summer of 2020 which had more than 20 of its attendees participate in the January 6th Capitol Riot. Among the rioters close to Bagheri were homophobic salon owner Gina Bisignano, serial pepper spray-attacker David Dempsey, Capitol riot weapons provider Edward Badalian and one of Officer Michael Fanone’s attackers, Daniel “DJ” Rodriguez. Bagheri also made headlines in the past for punching a cancer patient outside a breast cancer clinic, shouting about rape to schoolchildren outside an elementary school during an anti-mask protest, and organizing anti-mask shopping trips at the height of the COVID-19 Pandemic resulting in violent altercations.
Eventually, Los Angeles Police Department arrived and immediately began hearing complaints of stolen signs from Walterscheid. Police first formed a line next to the anti-abortion protesters. For reasons unclear to LCRW, anti-abortion protesters insisted that one woman on her way to work was led through the pro-abortion crowd. Then, despite an LAPD officer telling them that he “strongly advises them not to,” three anti-abortion protesters started to walk towards the pro-abortion crowd. They were blocked from entrance by pro-abortion protesters standing in a line and refusing to move.
During several moments where representatives from opposing sides approached the other, LAPD Officers formed a second line facing towards Planned Parenthood. While LAPD told LCRW “we were there to ensure everyone was able to exercise their first amendment rights,” several of the pro-abortion crowd admonished LAPD for forming a skirmish line against them. LAPD filmed much of the event with video cameras from a distance.
Another serial press antagonizer in attendance was Benjamin Patino, probably most well-known for being taken into custody by the FBI after threatening to “do like a school shooter” if Biden won ahead of the 2020 elections. Patino was also detained for fighting at a Beverly Hills Freedom Rally in August of 2020, participated in an attack alongside Mike Ancheta on KPCC reporter Frank Stoltze in August of 2021 and started a large fight with counter-protesters alongside Proud Boy Adam Michael Kiefer at an antivaxx rally. During the latter brawl, a counter-protester was apparently stabbed by another anti-vaxx demonstrator, an antivaxx demonstrator was allegedly stabbed by an antifascist, and Ancheta and Rodriguez attacked News2Share videographer Jake Lee Green.
Not one to pass up a chance to harass members of the press, Patino began screaming at a photographer and street artist who goes by ‘Plastic Jesus.’ At one point during the harassment, Patino began shouting that he “wasn’t arrested, I went to a mental institution.” Patino was actually arrested, and later taken to a mental health facility.
One of the most tense moments came when Mike Ancheta arrived at the protest on foot. Ancheta took issue with an LCRW reporter calling him “right wing, ” on Twitter. As stated before, Ancheta said he wants communists to be executed on camera. He then started antagonizing pro-abortion protesters as well as reporters. An LAPD Officer even warned him to stop trying to pick fights. Eventually, Ancheta was kicked from behind by a pro-abortion demonstrator then escorted away by police without detainment. Ancheta was the last anti-abortion protester to leave the competing demonstrations.