Confronting counter protesters at the March on the Arch (St. Louis, MO)
My 8-year-old daughter, Clara, has been asking me to take her to a pro-life “protest,” and the St. Louis-based event in beautiful spring weather was a great opportunity.
We joined several hundred pro-life marchers for what began as a very peaceful trek on a gorgeous day. I showed Clara how to keep an eye out for cameras and tilt her sign toward them as we passed. I let her know she could put her sign down if she wanted to rest her arms, but she said she didn’t want to miss a chance for people to take pictures of it. That’s right, my girl.
Eventually we were confronted by a counter protester. He was crude and combative, but a part of me respected the fact that he was standing against a large crowd of people, by himself, saying what he felt he needed to say. I was underwhelmed by his arguments, but it takes courage to be a lone counter protester.
Then it became clear he wasn’t alone. He was the forerunner for a larger, similarly aggressive group.
Protesters carrying a huge orange banner plus several masked cyclists attempted to create a barricade so the pro-lifers couldn’t continue en route. The two police officers driving ahead to block traffic did not engage. So the pro-lifers, including Clara and I, for the most part simply stepped onto the sidewalk and walked around.
The cyclists biked ahead and tried to block the marchers again, several times. When the pro-life march would reach the new pro-choice barricade, it started to get more physical. People shoving against each other, pro-lifers trying to get by, pro-choicers trying to stop them. At one point one of the cyclists fell off her bike. A few pro-lifers asked if she was okay. She responded “I’m alright…you know what? NO! I’m NOT okay! Because abortion bans…” and went on to vent her anger. But there was at least that brief moment of connection.
There were also some counter protesters wearing all black, with black make up around and dripping from their eyes, and some of them had the names of Supreme Court justices attached to their clothes. Two women had a bizarre pantomime going where one had a large rope tied around her neck and the other was pulling her along. I assume it was meant to be a point about bodily autonomy or slavery or similar. Unfortunately I didn’t get a photo of that part.
I asked Clara if she’d like to move to the back of our group, further away from the points of confrontation. She said no thanks. Instead she and I walked directly up to the bicycles and then through them. No one touched us, said anything to us, or, in fact, even looked at us. Perhaps they realized the optics of screaming at an 8-year-old girl would be less than ideal.
While we walked, several fellow marchers let me know they watch and enjoy SPL’s TikToks and other content. One told me she first learned of our group from a friend in Ireland, and so we took a picture together for her to send across the world with the caption “Look who I ran into!”
Despite the dedicated companionship of the counter protesters, we made it without major incident to the St. Louis gateway Arch. The counter protesters gathered to continue chanting. Some pro-lifers faced them with signs and other chants. Most started dispersing. Clara and I walked to the Arch itself so she could say she’s touched it. We then headed back to the car, her talking to me the entire way about everything she had seen. She thought the whole experience was exciting and she wants to go again at some point.