Life Chain is an annual event which consists of thousands of pro-life women, men and children standing on over 200 street corners across Canada holding signs that read, “Abortion Hurts Women”, “Abortion Kills Children,” “Adoption, the Loving Option”, “Life, We Stand On Guard For Thee”, and “Pregnant and need help? Call (local pregnancy help centre phone number)”. This is an explicitly peaceful and silent protest. Participants are not allowed to begin conversations with passersby, nor are they allowed to display any aggressive behaviour at any point. No abortion victim photography is permitted.
My task for this year’s Life Chain, which took place on Sunday, 30 September, was to manage the corner of Bloor and Keele, to hand out signs, and to take a headcount. Seventy-six sign-holders were present on that corner from 2:00-3:00 pm. One pro-abortion woman, probably in her late twenties, stood amongst us holding a sign that read, “My body, my choice, my right”. She was the only counter-protester present throughout, and she peacefully shared the corner with the rest of us.
At around 2:30, I was assaulted.
A man in his late twenties to early thirties observed the demonstration and, taking out two markers, one red and one blue, he managed to deface two of our signs. After I warned people to shield their signs, he then proceeded to run up behind five of the participants (including a ten-year-old girl) and scribble with his markers on their backs, ruining their clothing.
After these acts of vandalism, he approached the pro-abortion demonstrator, evidently in order to seek her approval, which she appeared to deny him by discouraging his tactics. At this point I took out my cell phone and began to record him, telling him that what he did was destruction of private property and it was against the law. He asked me whether a sixteen-year-old girl who gets pregnant after being raped should keep her baby. I attempted to explain that her baby should be treated no differently than a three-year-old child who may have been conceived by rape.
He then forcefully roundhouse-kicked me in the shoulder, which sent my phone flying and I yelled for someone to call the police. In defence of his violence he claimed he’d meant to kick my phone, and then, as a fellow Life Chain participant dialed 9-1-1, he yanked off the ribbon I’d been wearing on my chest and ran away, heading east on Bloor.
A police car arrived, five to ten minutes later. The policemen rolled down their window but did not exit their vehicle.
I approached them and told them I was just assaulted and explained the situation.
I showed them the video. They replied, “What do you want us to do about it?”.
As I was on the verge of tears and shaking from the adrenaline, I didn’t know what to say. I asked what my options were, and they replied that I could file a complaint, but warned that I’d have to take him to court, and only if they were able to find him, but given that it wasn’t a “serious case of assault”, he’d be likely to be given probation or less.
I asked if I could file a complaint without going to court and they said no.
My main concern at the time was that the incident was on file. The officers said the phone call would be on record, but their apparent indifference discouraged me from pursuing the issue further so I told them I would not. Two hours later, I started to feel pain in my shoulder where I’d been kicked and I contacted the police and filed a report with a different set of officers who were significantly more helpful, even offering a trauma support group after they visited my house and saw me still shaking with eyes red from crying. The police are still looking for my attacker and he has yet to be identified.
This sort of assault is neither a single nor a rare occurrence.
Elsewhere on the same day, a man was standing and silently praying at the corner of Confederation and the Queensway in Mississauga when a woman approached him from behind and poured paint all over his jacket and pants. He was oblivious to what was happening until he felt the liquid and turned around to see the woman grinning at him.
He told me: “These people are more and more aggressive because they have the support from the government and the media”. In 2014 Michael Panagapko of Toronto was convicted of assaulting a woman during the 2013 Life Chain with a knife. He poured water on her, threw the bottle in her face, pulled her to the ground by her hair and beat her by punching and kicking her, before pulling out his knife.