Drenched, spat-on and sworn at (American Style?)

It has become fashionable for pro-abortion campaigners in Britain to refer to prayer vigils outside abortion clinics as "American-style protests." Why I am Pro-Life, a blog for young pro-lifers in Britain, had a post the other day: Yeehaw watch out for "American tactics and American money".

Now I know that some Americans read this blog: you may be baffled by this apparent racism on the part of the pro-abortionists. As the Yeehaw post points out, it is only a selective anti-Americanism. At the BPAS they are happy to appoint Americans and take American money - as long as it is from the right sort of Americans. With that in mind, I hope you won't mind a report on today's pro-life Vigil at Maidstone with allusions to the "American style" of the goings-on.

Bishop John Hine, auxiliary Bishop for the Archdiocese of Southwark with responsibility for the Kent area, joined the Helpers of God's Precious Infants today. He celebrated the 12.30pm Mass at St Francis in Maidstone before we walked the short distance round the corner into Brewer Street to stand across the road from the Marie Stopes abortion clinic. As usual, we stood in a line on the edge of the pavement so as not to cause an obstruction to anyone. We said fifteen decades of the Rosary and the Divine Mercy Chaplet, interspersed with a few other prayers and some Marian chants - I always choose ones familiar from Lourdes and Fatima.

Two of the helpers offer leaflets to anyone passing by, including the men and women who are entering the clinic and will engage them in conversation if possible - quite a few just walk past.

If you grew up in England and have been away for a few years, one of the things you will notice is how much we now look like a police state. Half the adult population seems to have in their wardrobe a pair of black or dark blue serge trousers, some sort of military-style top, often with pouches hanging down the chest or tied round the waist, and a stab-vest. On the back is the rubric indicating the area of "enforcement" in which they have been trained. (There should be a new "I Spy" book for this.) Today the first arrivals were "Environmental Enforcement." They patrol to stop people dropping chewing gum, cigarette ends or, presumably, American-Style McDonalds wrappers - and to warn of the £110 fine if you put your rubbish out too early.

Unfortunately they seemed powerless to act against our littering the pavement with Rosary-saying pro-lifers, though they spent some time in conversation with an agitated young man who was wearing American-Style three-quarter length trousers and swearing a lot. He warned some of the rather gentle ladies at the end of our line that they should tell us all to leave in five minutes or else. (It was a bit like a scene in an American Film.) The "or else" was that he brought out a bucket of water and threw it over some completely passive and peaceful people who continued saying the Fourth Sorrowful Mystery.

Enter, five minutes later, the real McCoy of uniforms: Her Majesty's Constabulary. I understand that this is now properly called the "Police Service." They did their job with admirable coolness and diplomacy. The young chap, who had gone back into his house, had a visit and unfortunately the police service will just have prosecute him, on account of the fact that most of London and the South East is now monitored by CCTV and he will have a hard time arguing that "I never done nothing."

While the Police were still around, a traffic warden - sorry "Parking Enforcement Officer" - came along and pecked into her portable electronic parking fine issuer and carefully positioned a ticket on a vehicle that had transgressed the Council's permission for siting a stationary vehicle, probably having exceeded the length of time permitted in the serial-numbered bay provided. She was joined by a fellow enforcement officer. The Environmental Enforcement were still walking up and down, so that there were now six uniformed personnel from three different faculties.

Unfortunately they had all gone by the time an angry chap, randomly walking in the middle of the road (or should I say "jaywalking" American-Style) summoned up the courage to stop, spit ferociously at the quiet, rosary-saying pro-lifers and shout "F***ing - <something>" (I didn't catch the second part of the imprecation.) To complete the vigil, a gentleman walking with his wife (he was probably too old to have a "partner") came up to me and berated me in polite but forceful language (very much "in my face" American-Style) about how disgraceful we all were. I did offer to talk to him away from the prayers but he declined the invitation.

All in all, a fairly normal hour or so of pro-life vigilling in Maidstone. In fact, it is an intensely prayerful time for all those who attend. The effort to concentrate on the mysteries while on the street makes for a better Rosary than usual. The intentions offered up cover many areas of pro-life prayer, including unborn children, mothers in difficulty, medical personnel, people who work in abortion clinics, legislators, and Church leaders.

The BPAS and others prate on about intimidation and "American-Style" protests in an attempt to convince the public that we are about to blow something up or shoot someone. In fact, the experience of the peaceful, prayerful, non-confrontational, pro-life people who make these vigils is that they face abuse, intimidation, spittle and assault. And then get cast as the bad guys. Modern Britain is certainly changing. I wonder how long it will be before we have to go and say the Rosary outside euthanasia clinics.

I have played up the incidents today because I think that it is important to get the message across that this is a peaceful vigil and the opponents of it are the ones disposed to violence and intimidation. In fact the participants in the vigil are able to focus on their prayers.

Back at the Church I asked around to see who had the most water thrown over them. The group had a laugh about it and were pretty sanguine. They had already offered it up as a sacrifice for pro-life intentions.

God bless them all for turning out week after week in such circumstances. And God bless Bishop Hine for being there today to support them. If there are any young readers in reach of Maidstone (and lets face it, there are trains from central London that take an hour to Maidstone East which is right next to the Church) do try to be there from time to time.

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