PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – A large group of abortion rights opponents gathered outside of a Planned Parenthood facility to rally against bullying after Rep. Brian Sims recorded himself confronting protesters outside the facility. The rally was called “From the City of Brotherly Love: A Pro-Life Rally Against Bullying.”
A major Center City block closed down Friday morning and afternoon as more than 1,000 abortion rights opponents gathered in front of the Planned Parenthood Southeastern Pennsylvania, located at 1144 Locust St.
“We see so much in our culture about empowering women, yet the pro-choice message is, ‘You can’t handle this baby,'” Maria Scanga, an an abortion rights opponent, said.
Live Action, one of the leading national abortion rights opponents and human rights organizations in America, held the prayerful rally.
In the video shot last week outside a Planned Parenthood facility in his district, Sims peppered the unidentified woman with comments and questions, calling her actions disgusting, racist and shameful. The woman largely ignores him, at one point taking a rosary out of her bag.
“Who would have thought that an old white lady would be out in front of a Planned Parenthood telling people what is right for their bodies,” Sims said in the video. “Shame on you.”
The nine-minute video uploaded to Sims’ Facebook page has been seen more than 1 million times.
“Representative Brian Sims filmed himself harassing and berating, making sexist and racist comments,” Lila Rose, founder of Live Action, said. “We will not back down to bullies. We will respond to your hatred with love and we will continue to fight for the day where every single child in this country in the womb is protected.”
Dozens of Philadelphia Police officers were on hand for the crowd, and though there were at least 10 Planned Parenthood volunteer escorts near the facility, very few counter-protesters arrived.
“I’m out here to provide support for the volunteers that are coming to help people get services that they need,” Rachel Rodriguez, an abortion rights advocate, said. “I wanted to make sure they felt there were safe.”
But most of the attention stayed on Sims, with many calling for his resignation.
“This is behavior that is unbecoming for a state representative,” Rose said.
The Republican Party of Pennsylvania called for city, state and federal prosecutors to investigate Sims following the videos.
In a statement, party chairman Val DiGiorgio called Sims’ conduct “outrageous.”
“Elected officials should not use their positions of power to harass citizens who are peacefully protesting. I hope our state and federal prosecutors will undertake review of this matter with the seriousness it deserves and uphold the role for which they were elected to, which demands holding people accountable for their actions,” DiGiorgio said.
In the second video, Sims asked viewers to identify three young females he described as protesters and “pseudo Christians” outside the Planned Parenthood clinic. He offered a reward for the information, promising to donate $100 to Planned Parenthood.
Both Philadelphia Police and District Attorney Larry Krasner’s office are aware of the videos and are currently looking into the issue.
Archbishop of Philadelphia Charles Chaput addressed the videos Rep. Sims posted.
“Over the past few days, videos have gone viral on social media featuring State Representative Brian Sims aggressively harassing young and elderly women who were peacefully praying outside of a Planned Parenthood Clinic in Philadelphia,” Archbishop Chaput said in a statement. “These videos, which Representative Sims took himself, have rightly sparked broad outrage and garnered much attention in the press. His actions were unbecoming of an elected official. There is much bitter irony that he claims to be a champion for the rights of all women yet he trampled on the rights of others and disgracefully shamed them in public. It was particularly disdainful that he offered a bounty for the identity and home addresses of three young ladies in order to encourage protests at their homes.”
CBS3’s Greg Argos contributed to this report.