Pro-Life Protestor Cancels Event After Threats

Brian Cunningham, center

The leader of a canceled Gilroy anti-abortion rally has filed a police complaint against two women over alleged Facebook threats of physical violence—including castration—and violations of free speech guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.
Brian Cunningham, a retired attorney, said threats to hurt him and the fear of violence against people in his group by those in the pro-choice camp forced him to cancel a Feb. 11 event outside Planned Parenthood’s Gilroy office. It was to be part of a nationwide push to defund of the abortion provider.
Two threats of what he considers physical violence and dozens of critical or nasty posts quickly went up on his group’s Facebook page after the event was announced in paid ads on Feb. 3, he said Tuesday.
The pace of negative posts intensified over the next two days, he said.
The nature of the posts convinced him that his peaceful group would be met with physical violence on the public sidewalk Saturday outside the Planned Parenthood office on Renz Lane, he said.
The facility is next door to the California Highway Patrol’s Hollister-Gilroy office.
“I am filing a complaint…under California Penal Code sections 422 and 417 against two individuals who have threatened me and others to stop us from exercising our First Amendment Rights,” Cunningham wrote Tuesday to acting Gilroy Police Chief Scot Smithee.
Smithee could not be reached for comment and the GPD’s public information officer had not responded by press time.
Some Facebook posts shared by Cunningham were non-threatening or disagreed with or criticized his group’s anti-abortion and anti-Planned Parenthood positions but did not threaten violence.
The worst read, “How about we just castrate you.” A woman identified as Paula Brandon and Paula Johnson Brandon of Watsonville posted it.
Attempts to reach her were unsuccessful. Among her Facebook “likes” are two anti-President Donald Trump organizations and a cause listed as Enact Universal Health Care for California.
Another post threatened to put his face on a sign, which he considered to be a threat of physical violence, said Cunningham, a 74-year-old grandfather.
That post, by a woman identified as Dawn Pipestem, reads, “We will be there in pink hats to take this war on again!!! And I’m sure your faces will make great picket signs ……. camera ready pro planned parenthood.”
However, a posting from Bernadete Macedo reads, “It’s important that we have a respectful conversation with one another.”
She also posted a note saying that Planned Parenthood “does not perform abortions,” which went to the very heart of what the rally was supposed to be all about.
Cunningham posted in response: “You are sadly misinformed. Planned Parenthood received $ 540,000,000 last year to perform 330,000 abortions. So when you say (it) does not perform abortions you are incorrect. Secondly, Planned Parenthood claims to provide prenatal care but that was proven recently not to be true when 100 women called them for prenatal care and only one PP center made it available.”
Cunningham later cited Planned Parenthood’s own tax filings as the source of his figures.
Cunningham has for years lead peaceful, pro-life prayer vigils outside the Planned Parenthood Gilroy office. He said the chance that he or one of the rally participants might be hurt this time made going through with the event unadvisable.
A former Gilroy City Councilman, Cunningham also is known for his work with nonprofits that feed and clothe the poor, including one called Keepers Closet that clothes newborns and toddlers and that he founded and funds himself.
Cunningham’s paid Facebook ad for the rally that prompted the threats and hostility has since been taken down.
It read: “Join us on Saturday, February 11, 2017 as we will be hosting a “Defund Planned Parenthood” rally! The purpose of this nationwide effort is to draw attention to Planned Parenthood and call for their defunding. Join us in the effort to save lives by participating peacefully on the public sidewalk outside of Planned Parenthood in Gilroy (760 Renz Ln, behind Lowe’s) from 10:00 a.m.-10:45am. We hope to see you there!”
From 50 to 75 people were expected to participate in the peaceful rally, Cunningham said.

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