Pro-choice student creates bomb scare at anti-abortion event; pro-life students refuse to back down

Students for Life America at the Women's March on Washington, January 21, 2017. | (Photo: Kristan Mercer Hawkins)

A pro-life group has refused to back down after their event was evacuated by a bomb threat, calling the incident just one of “many examples” of violence pro-life advocates face for standing up for the rights of the unborn. 

Noah Maldonado, the Minnesota regional coordinator for Students for Life of America (SFLA), was kicking off an event called 40 Days for Life at Rochester Community and Technical College Hill Theatre in Rochester, Minnesota when a young adult dropped a mysterious package in the middle of the room.

After individuals in the audience started smelling ammonia, the building was quickly evacuated by campus security, who notified law enforcement and the fire department. No one was injured in the incident. 

According to local station WCSI, Rochester police arrested Samuel Vanderwiel, 19, and charged him with one felony count of terroristic threats with reckless disregard, and misdemeanors; one count of 5th-degree assault; one count of disorderly conduct; and one count of public nuisance.

Samuel Vanderwiel was arrested Wednesday night at the Rochester community college where a pro-life event was being held, charged with "terroristic threats." | Olmsted County

Following the evacuation, dozens of pro-lifers prayed outside the building and Maldonado finished his speech entitled "Embracing Controversy."

“It’s disappointing that a pro-choice student finds it appropriate to scare innocent children and families and try to intimidate them from peacefully praying and sidewalk counseling," Maldonado said, according to Students for Life. "However, it’s not surprising, when we see the climate on high school and college campuses, where speaking tour banners are burned, displays are vandalized, and administrators try to silence students.”

In a statement made available to The Christian Post, the organizers of 40 Days for Life called the incident “one of many examples of the violence many pro-life advocates regularly face as a result of exercising their constitutionally protected free speech and standing up for the rights of the unborn.”

40 Days for Life describes itself as a “focused pro-life campaign with a vision to access God’s power through prayer, fasting, and peaceful vigil to end abortion.” Their mission is to bring together the body of Christ in a spirit of unity during a focused 40-day campaign of prayer, fasting, and peaceful activism with the purpose of repentance.

This year marks the organization’s largest campaign in history, with more than 500 communities in over 30 countries uniting as a movement to save the unborn by holding 24/7 prayer vigils outside abortion clinics around the world until November 3.

Despite Wednesday’s disruption, the group has vowed to continue fighting for the rights of the unborn: “While abortion advocates continue to turn to violence in an effort to silence and deter 40 Days for Life, we will remain steadfast and determined in our mission to peacefully save lives and end abortion as we head into the largest 40 Days for Life campaign ever with more than 500 cities in 30 countries participating,” it said. 

Kristan Hawkins, president of SFLA, added, "The Pro-Life Generation will not be silenced or intimidated. This is not the kind of back-to-school story anyone hopes for, but no matter the opposition, Students for Life will bring our message of hope to campuses in all 50 states."

This is not the first time pro-life students have faced opposition for their beliefs on campus.

In June 2018, pro-choice students erased pro-life messages written by Students for Life of America on the grounds of Western Washington University. In a Facebook video of the incident, an unidentified student declares, "They're writing anti-choice s*** all over so we're just trying to wash it off before it might hurt someone's feelings.”

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