Christendom College’s pro-life group, Shield of Roses, held its biggest protest in 35 years of its existence this past Saturday. On October 27, over 225 students, faculty, staff, and visitors traveled to Washington, D.C., to peacefully protest abortion at the Planned Parenthood clinic, located just north of the White House, on 16th Street.
The group protests at this same clinic each Saturday morning during the academic year, but normally only around 20 students make the trek into D.C. on a weekly basis. Once a semester, however, the group’s leadership organizes what it calls a “Mega Shield” event and encourages as many of the members of the College community as possible to participate. Last year, Mega Shield events drew as many as 100 students, and prior years’ saw up to 200 participants.
“I am so happy that we were able to get so many to come out for this event,” says President of Shield of Roses, college senior Chris Roberts, from Asheville, North Carolina. “It’s a real sacrifice to wake up so early on a Saturday morning and travel to D.C., but the babies are worth it.”
Christendom’s Shield of Roses group has been organizing prayerful pro-life protests since 1977, the first year of the college’s existence. In the 1980s and 1990s, the students targeted an abortion clinic in Falls Church, Va. For the past 12 years, the group has focused on the Planned Parenthood clinic in D.C.
Students wake up early on “Mega Shield” Saturdays to attend the 7:30 a.m. Mass, after which they load into private vehicles and a couple of college vans. They arrive at the Planned Parenthood abortuary at around 9:30 a.m. where they kneel on the grass in front of the clinic and pray four rosaries and a Chaplet of Divine Mercy, as well as sing some Marian hymns before departing back to the college campus in Front Royal.
In 2010, this particular Planned Parenthood facility erected a fence blocking access to the public lawn outside the abortuary, making the prayerful protest more challenging. The students then had to spread out along the sidewalk. Later that year, after a lot of litigation and research, it was determined that the grassy area and sidewalk in front of the building are public property, and as a result, students are now able to kneel and pray on the public lawn again.
In an effort to deter the protesting students from standing and kneeling on grassy area, mulch has been spread on the ground, and a variety of plants, including rose bushes, have been planted.
“After we learned that Planned Parenthood installed the fence, and that police were threatening to arrest those that prayed or counseled on the public spaces within the fence, we extensively researched the status of that property,” said James Henderson, Senior Counsel for the American Center for Law and Justice. “The Public Spaces Branch of the District’s Department of Transportation maintains the database of public properties in Washington, D.C. During meetings with that department, two different sources confirmed to us that Washington, D.C., owned a 50-foot right of way along the public sidewalk in front of Planned Parenthood.”
The students of Christendom College are active in pro-life work year round, from prayerful protests to volunteering at a pregnancy center and working for pro-life candidates. Every year, Christendom cancels classes the day of the March for Life in D.C. and the entire student body enthusiastically attends.