An elderly pro-life advocate has become the first person cited for breaking lockdown orders in San Francisco amid the coronavirus outbreak.
The San Francisco Examiner reported 86-year-old Ronald Konopaski was ticketed by officers with the San Francisco Police Department on Thursday outside of a Planned Parenthood location, where he was praying on a sidewalk.
SFPD Sgt. Michael Andraychak confirmed Konopaski was the first person in San Francisco cited for allegedly violating the order.
Andraychak said police warned Konopaski the previous day to leave the sidewalk in front of the Planned Parenthood clinic or he would be in violation of the city order.
The sergeant said Konopaski was told to stop distributing leaflets on the sidewalk and to go home. The man returned the next day to continue praying for the closure of the abortion clinic in one of the country’s most liberal cities, according to police.
Konopaski spoke to the San Francisco Examiner by telephone and explained that he was offering an “essential service” by praying for the closure of the Planned Parenthood location.
He also said that he feels the citation he received is in violation of his civil and religious liberties.
“The people who are opposing my being there are just using this order as a tool to engage the police to do their dirty work to get rid of me,” Konopaski said.
The man told the Examiner he has spent the last decade outside the abortion clinic praying for its closure and attempting to let pregnant women know that they have other options.
In an interview with KPIX-TV, Konopaski described that as essential business. “Once they get inside, they’re only offered one option, and that’s an abortion,” he said. “And so we’re outside to try to give them another choice, that they can keep their baby.”
Konopaski had been at the clinic almost daily in recent weeks as part of the nationwide 40 Days for Life campaign to end abortion, which ran from Feb. 26 to April 5.
40 Days for Life writes on its website, “40 Days for Life is an internationally coordinated 40-day campaign that aims to end abortion locally through prayer and fasting, community outreach, and a peaceful all-day vigil in front of abortion businesses.”
On the risk posed by COVID-19, Konopaski told the Examiner, “I’m 86 years old and I know how to take care of my health. … I’m following the order of this health thing even though I think that is a gross overkill or overreach.”
He told KPIX, “I gotta go sometime, and if it’s the coronavirus, what’s the difference?”
Konopaski said he is scheduled to go to court on April 27 and was told that he will be arrested if he returns to the Planned Parenthood clinic.
A witness of Konopaski’s encounter with police said the citation was handed out as officers and city officials look the other way when other people violate stay-at-home orders.
Pro-life advocate Matthew Prewett livestreamed the encounter on Periscope and complained that San Francisco police have been selectively enforcing the city’s COVID-19 public health orders.
Outside of Planned Parenthood where they are trying to shut down pro-life activists. https://t.co/CQUOP9n8yg
— Matthew Prewett (@matthewprewett) April 2, 2020
Prewett said some neighborhoods in the city are overrun with homeless people and others, but they are not being bothered by police officers.
The Examiner reported that the city’s ban on so-called nonessential activity exempts homeless people.
In his livestream, officers also confronted Prewett and Pro-Life San Francisco founder Terrisa Bukovinac.
The officers threatened them with citations if they did not leave the area.
One told Prewett his “constitutional right to protest and so on and so forth has to take a back seat to health order.”
Prewett noted the Planned Parenthood location where Konopaski was cited remained open and performing abortions despite the city’s order that nonessential businesses remain closed.
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