A former mayor power washed a retired priest and another prominent abortion foe in downtown South San Francisco Saturday in front of a building where a Planned Parenthood has been approved.
Depending on who you talk to, it was either an act of self-defense or a simple mean-spirited attempt to quash the pro-life group’s First Amendment rights.
John Penna, who served on the South San Francisco City Council from 1989 to 2000, told the Daily Journal yesterday that he turned the pressure washer on a retired Catholic priest Saturday because the father came at him with a cane in a threatening manner.
He also gave prominent abortion foe Ross Foti, 79, a good soaking and at least one other protester.
Police ultimately issued Penna, 70, a ticket for simple battery.
Penna had intended to power wash two buildings on the 400 block of Grand Avenue Saturday to prepare for upcoming Fourth of July sales at businesses in the buildings, he told the Daily Journal.
He told the protesters, about 20, of his plans and asked them to politely move.
“They were not acknowledging that I was talking to them,” Penna, 70, said. “I gave them fair warning.”
The protesters are angry at Penna because he owns the building into which the Planned Parenthood clinic will move.
Penna said he blasted some in the group with the power washer because they were surrounding him and that he was fearful.
“He came up ready to hit me with the cane and I told him to back off. That’s when I squirted him in the chest, then his pants,” said Penna, who served a year as South San Francisco’s mayor.
Foti, who famously drives a truck with aborted fetuses prominently displayed, told the Daily Journal his “eyes feel funny” after getting squirted in the face.
A South San Francisco police officer is usually on scene when the protesters come to the area and witnessed the incident.
Foti asked to use the power of citizen’s arrest to have Penna cited after seeing his friend and retired priest Father Joe Richards get power washed.
Foti described Richards as a “poor guy with a cane” but Penna described him as someone with a penchant for condemning people to hell and placing hexes on those he does not like.
“I can’t lie. After he placed a hex on me — I’ve been driving a little more cautiously,” said Penna, who considers himself a “good” Catholic.
The South San Francisco Planning Commission approved Planned Parenthood’s application in May but a group named Respect Life South San Francisco filed an appeal against the approval and the City Council will next take up the topic at its Aug. 28 meeting, City Clerk Krista Martinelli wrote the Daily Journal in an email.
The 435 Grand Ave. clinic will not provide surgical abortion but will issue emergency contraceptives, contraceptives and provide sexually transmitted disease testing and treatment, Planned Parenthood Mar Monte spokeswoman Lupe Rodriguez said previously. Planned Parenthood does not plan to offer chemical abortion, or RU-486, but it could be added without returning to the city for zoning approval, Rodriquez said previously.
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