Far-right groups continue antiabortion demonstrations near Santa Monica Planned Parenthood

Abortion-rights activists take part in a National Day of Protest on July 4 in the Venice neighborhood of Los Angeles.
(Ringo Chiu / Los Angeles Times)

Antiabortion demonstrations by far-right groups in several states in the weeks following the Supreme Court’s reversal of Roe vs. Wade, including one July 9 near the Planned Parenthood-Santa Monica Health Center, and another planned for this weekend in Santa Monica, have raised concerns among some law enforcement authorities about potential clashes and outbreaks of violence.

One far-right group, AmericanMade Patriots, will hold a “Babies’ Lives Matter” protest at Palisades Park in Santa Monica on Saturday morning, a representative of the group said.

Saturday’s demonstration follows a protest last week outside the Santa Monica Planned Parenthood clinic, in which participants affiliated with the right-wing neo-fascist group the Proud Boys took part, marching in their trademark yellow and black clothing. They are expected to turn out at the demonstration at Palisades Park.

In response, several abortion rights groups across Los Angeles are organizing counter-demonstrations outside the health clinic on Saturday.

“They are still a threat,” said Adam Lerman, a community organizer with the Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, Integration & Immigrant Rights, and Fight for Equality By Any Means Necessary (BAMN).


BAMN wasn’t aware of last week’s antiabortion demonstration in time to form a counter-protest, Lerman said. Since then, the group has shared fliers on social media and spent this week partnering with other local abortion rights advocacy organizations.

“If we don’t act, they’re gonna definitely continue to grow and feel bolder and feel more capable,” Lerman said, referring to far-right groups.

Social media posts of the July 9 demonstration in Santa Monica include videos of members of right-wing affiliated groups, some carrying weapons such as knives and sap gloves, outside the Planned Parenthood clinic.

Lt. Rudy Flores, spokesperson for the Santa Monica Police Department, said there was a verbal altercation at the July 9 event between antiabortion and abortion rights demonstrators, but no arrests were made.

“The priority at the SMPD, and the City of Santa Monica is the safety of our residents and visitors while supporting peaceful protests, public assemblies and the rights of all individuals when exercising their First Amendment right to free speech,” Flores said in an emailed statement.

He added that the Police Department is aware of this weekend’s planned demonstrations and counter-demonstrations. Flores said that the Santa Monica Police Department will have officers stationed at both locations.

Stephanie Gutierrez, a BAMN organizer who is helping to coordinate Saturday’s counter-protests, said that far-right extremists have been emboldened by the Supreme Court’s ruling. That, in turn, has galvanized abortion rights activists.

“We will not wait for elections, ballot initiatives or courts to protect our fundamental rights,” Gutierrez said. “We are going to fight in the streets like the civil rights movement did and we will do so by any means necessary.”

Santa Monica Mayor Sue Himmelrich said that local officials are not expecting violence on Saturday. They are also not expecting a large, centralized crowd of far-right protesters.

However, Himmelrich added, “We are still concerned for any potential threats to our community and how this impacts those who live in Santa Monica.”


Chris Reyes, who identified himself to The Times as a lead organizer of Saturday’s antiabortion protest by AmericanMade Patriots, said that he is urging members to remain nonviolent and expects the demonstration to be peaceful.

“We’re not looking to cause trouble,” he said. “We just want to be there to show people that it’s OK not to be afraid and speak up for what you believe in.”

Reyes said that the Proud Boys were not initially invited to the demonstrations but found out about the event through social media and word of mouth.

“We’re just trying to keep everybody safe, especially the women and children,” he said.

Reyes said that members of his group will speak against terminating pregnancies and in favor of helping individuals who are pregnant find alternatives to abortion.

“We really just want to celebrate life,” Reyes said.

The Santa Monica protests are part of an increasing trend among right-wing organizations staging abortion-related protests across the nation, both before the Supreme Court decision and in its aftermath.

Roudabeh Kishi, director of research and innovation at Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project, a nonprofit that tracks political violence and demonstrations, said there have been 30 abortion-related demonstrations that have involved far-right groups across the nation since the start of the year — up from 10 in 2021 and four such events the year prior.

“We are worried about this,” Kishi said. “We’re trying to look into how recent events have led to increased demonstrations.”

Kishi and other analysts say that increased activism by abortion rights advocates has met with more aggressive tactics in response by far-right extremist groups. Counter-demonstrations are more likely to turn violent if protesters on either side are armed, Kishi said.

“It’s essentially the factors of a perfect storm,” Kishi said.

Abortion-related demonstrations have been overwhelmingly nonviolent across the nation. There have been 11 recorded abortion-related demonstrations thus far this year that have turned violent or destructive, all of which have involved participants affiliated with the Proud Boys, Kishi said.

As of last week, there had been 839 abortion-related demonstrations since the Supreme Court decision was announced on June 24, and 1,728 demonstrations since the start of this year, Kishi said. That’s three times higher than last year, Kishi added.

The numbers have risen in California as well.

There have been 191 abortion-related demonstrations since the start of the year across the state, with more than half occurring since the Supreme Court decision. In Los Angeles, there have been 35 demonstrations, with around 19 taking place in the last month, according to the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project.

Gov. Gavin Newsom has said that California will keep abortion access legal across the state. Of the demonstrations that have taken place in California this year, four have involved far-right groups, according to the nonprofit.

Days after a draft decision by the Supreme Court in support of overturning Roe vs. Wade was leaked in May, about 50 people, made up of members of the Three Percenters and AmericanMade Patriots, marched to the Riverside Planned Parenthood clinic in an antiabortion protest.

There were about 30 counter-protesters as well. Members of both groups were visibly equipped with brass knuckles, but there were no recorded altercations.

At the start of the year, thousands of people against abortion participated in a “Walk for Life” rally at San Francisco City Hall, including Catholic leaders and students and a small group of Proud Boys. There were about 100 counter-demonstrators in support of abortion access, Kishi said.

The Department of Homeland Security warned of a potential surge in political violence in May after the leak of the Supreme Court draft opinion.

DHS spokesperson Tess Hyre said the agency is working with law enforcement agencies across the country to address potential acts of violence from right-wing extremists.

“Americans’ freedom of speech and right to peacefully protest are fundamental Constitutional rights,” Hyre said in an emailed statement. “However, those rights do not extend to violence and other illegal activity.”