SAN FRANCISCO (ChurchMilitant.com) - A group of Hispanic pro-life advocates claim the media downplayed discrimination against them for their Catholic belief that abortion is morally wrong.
After participating in the Walk for Life West Coast with tens of thousands of pro-life advocates on Saturday, 11 Catholic young adults from the diocese of Sacramento were kicked out of an art gallery by a pro-abortion employee solely over their pro-life views.
David Schach, the owner of Dennis Rae Fine Art gallery on Beach Street in San Francisco, California, claimed it was a "misunderstanding" and the employee was just trying to close the store. The video clearly shows the employee admitting they are being kicked out because of their "anti-abortion" views and aggressively pursuing them to shout her views — but the mainstream media's reports fail to show the full story.
Church Militant spoke with three of the young adults, Erica Hernandez, Gabriel Voehl and Carmen Perez, who were quite upset with some of the media coverage and by Schach's excuse. "There was no misunderstanding whatsoever," Voehl said. "She made it perfectly clear."
They said they have accepted Schach's apology but said it's only partial. It doesn't address the misstatements by the employee nor do they believe that the store was closing. The store's hours listed online say they are open until 10 p.m. on Saturdays.
Hernandez, one of the last of the group to enter the store, claimed the blonde woman in the video was very kind and welcomed her and her friend to the store, even telling them "everything is on sale." Perez and Voehl also confirmed that they were greeted very kindly and warmly by the blonde woman.
Hernandez explained that after the walk, the group went out to eat and on their way home were intrigued by the gallery and wanted to look at the art.
"We weren't there to protest," Hernandez said. "We were just there to look at their art."
Hernandez still had her sign with her and it accidentally unfolded showing "I Am the Pro-Life Generation" on one side with "Defund Planned Parenthood" on the other. The employee just came up and "yelled at us to get out," she explained, adding there was no kindness, just disrespect. Hernandez and her friend quickly left the store.
She didn't expect to be treated like that and said, "I was traumatized, shocked."
Perez said after the employee kicked out Hernandez, she went through the store looking for other pro-lifers. She came up to Perez and Voehl and one other asking them if they were part of the group. Not really paying attention to her, they asked, "What group?" She replied with, "Those anti-abortion supporters."
Voehl responded, "Yes, we are pro-life" and said the employee proceeded to go on a tirade about Planned Parenthood and how "it has given me all my contraception."
"She had an agenda," Perez said. When it was clear to her that they were being discriminated against, Perez said she took out her phone and alerted the woman that she was recording her.
"Just a FYI, we're getting kicked out for our pro-life views," Perez said on the video. The employee responded with, "Good, yes, yes. I am pro-life, I am pro-choice and you are pro-death."
After they left, the employee then gestured with her middle finger and fought to get past the other employee to continue to accost the group with her tirade.
The initial report by NBC Bay Area claims the employee told reporters off camera that the group wouldn't leave and that she "felt threatened."
Voehl said his voice was muted during the final confrontation and it "made me look like I was being provoking towards her, but I wasn't." He felt like she was really hurting and he was "trying to help her in a way" and wanted "to show her that we love her." On the unedited video, you can hear that he and others said, "We love you" and "God Bless You."
Perez said this is her seventh year going to the Walk for Life and she was taught to always be respectful and "don't argue with counter-protesters" despite how they act. Perez, Voehl and Hernandez all said they left the store right away and didn't escalate the situation.
"We were the mature ones by just walking away and not making more commotion and they were adults and were making a commotion," Hernandez said.
Perez also felt like the NBC Bay Area reporting was "definitely unfair." In the follow-up report, only a small portion of the surveillance video was shown. Perez wants Schach to release the full surveillance video so people can see what really transpired.
She said comments left by some of the viewers have been critical of them, accusing them of instigating the trouble. She said even other pro-lifers have commented that their actions were hurting the pro-life movement. Perez just wants to the surveillance video released to prove they did not instigate any trouble.
"We are seeing adults use their experience and authority to harass students and suppress their free-speech rights," she said in a statement. She continued:
This is a disturbing trend we are seeing more frequently on college and high school campuses when students courageously step forward to start Students for Life groups or advocate for mothers and pre-born children. Rather than training up the next generation or welcoming them to participate in politics and public conversations, pro-abortion adults now seem to use their power against peaceful students who are voicing their support for mothers and their pre-born infants.
Perez's family also owns businesses.
"We've never kicked anyone out," she said. "It's just wrong, you don't do that to anybody."
"If the roles were reversed, we would be crucified," Perez said. Perez and Hernandez said they have never experienced discrimination of any kind before.
"We were discriminated against, not because of our race, but because of our political and religious values," Hernandez said.
Perez, Hernandez and Voehl would like to see the employee herself apologize for her behavior. They said that if she had just kindly approached them and asked them nicely to leave, they would have. Voehl said the incident left Perez and Hernandez "shaking upset and we felt for them."
Hernandez said she holds no grudges against her, saying, "Above all, I will always be praying for her if my sign triggered a painful reaction."
In response to Church Militant's query, Schach responded:
We respect their rights, we respect their views, and we apologize, we were just trying to close the doors [sic]. It was late in the evening around 9:15–9:30. It was a misunderstanding, we are sorry this happened to them. We were not trying to force anyone to leave or be mean to anyone based on their beliefs.