WASHINGTON, DC. Hundreds of angry and devastated demonstrators gathered outside the Supreme Court on Friday morning as news broke of the court’s decision to dismiss Roe v. Wade, which ended the constitutional right to abortion.
The scene was originally surreal. On one side of the crowd, people celebrated Rowe’s passing by turning on club music and starting a bubble machine. Just a few feet away, a much larger group of people were outraged, several women were crying and vowing to keep fighting.
“Do not give in to despair!” yelled one of the abortion rights organizers as the tumpa tumpa tumpa dance track blared in the background.
By noon, dozens more people appeared with stickers and T-shirts declaring support for abortion rights. They stood together and chanted about the need to protect women’s rights and waved homemade placards with slogans like “Hey Alito, fuck you” and “No reproductive rights for women = no sex for men.” (Judge Samuel Alito wrote the majority opinion in Friday’s ruling.) On the fringes of the crowd stood a handful of anti-abortion counter-protesters.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (DN.Y.) was one of the few politicians to join the crowd. Speaking through an amplifier, she acknowledged the frustration that many people had expressed that day about the limitations of electoral politics.
“This is not something that can be decided in a day, in an election, or in a year, because we have to buckle up,” Ocasio-Cortez said. “It’s a generational struggle.”
“We have to fill the streets. Elections are not enough now,” she continued. “I’m not going to be here and tell you to drop out because we have to show up everywhere. We need sand in all the damn gear… Elections alone won’t save us. We need to come, yes, to the ballot box, but this is the minimum.”
Police were also at the scene, some of them walking out in paramilitary gear from the Capitol building across the street. This was reported by the Metropolitan Police Department and the National Security Emergency Management Agency. joint statement that they initiated “full departmental activation” before next Tuesday in preparation for the demonstrations.
However, outside the court, the scene was not particularly tense. If anything, the prevailing mood among pro-abortion advocates was simply one of defeat and uncertainty about what to do now.
Bristol Williams, a 43-year-old black woman, was among those outside the courthouse. She came from New Orleans to visit her sister. Friday’s Supreme Court ruling means abortion now illegal in her home state, thanks to an “active law” that went into effect the moment Roe v. Wade was overturned.
Williams said she is doing her part to push Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, for reproductive rights. But since local officials in her state are mostly Republicans, she said, Edwards just fits in.
“It’s terrible, especially for black women,” Williams said of the court’s decision.
“Our disparities in health care are already terrible, so now you are talking about people who… have problems, like getting an abortion, and now you have those barriers too?” she said. “I don’t know what it will look like for us.”
One woman, who gave her name as Alison, stood alone next to a group of abortionists and chanted. She wept openly.
“It’s a really sad reason to be here,” she said, noting that she lived in St. Louis and accidentally ended up in Washington on a business trip.
“I just feel invisible and unloved in my country,” Alison said. “I wanted to come here today to look at all the historical monuments of our country, and now I’m just very ashamed to even want to.”
When asked if she had a message for the people at the Capitol, across the street, who helped bring to trial the judges who voted to overturn Roe v. Wade, she had one in mind.
“Shame on you,” she said. “And treat everyone better, please.”
Elizabeth White, a 30-year-old black woman living in the District of Columbia, sang chants through a bullhorn calling for justice for women. She stressed how disproportionately the court’s ruling would harm black, brown and transgender women. Meanwhile, she said, the men in court who make decisions about women’s bodies will always have the money to help women in their own lives get an abortion when needed.
“They will pay their mistresses for abortions,” White told HuffPost, “and we can’t do that.”
Samsara Taylor also spoke through a megaphone, urging the crowd to take to the streets to protest the ruling. She wore a green bandana around her neck, which she told HuffPost was a nod to Argentina’s “green handkerchief” movement, with women flooding the streets and succeeded in getting political leaders to legalize abortion in 2020.
“Democrats have never fought or defended abortion rights the way they should,” said Taylor, who helped found Rise Up 4 Abortion Rights in January.
“Why are we losing the right to abortion? Because people stay at home,” she continued, raising her voice. “Go outside and stay. If we had hundreds of thousands, if we had a million people with greenery surrounding the Capitol for a week, every day, it might take longer. But maybe not. We could force them to act at the federal level to pass legislation or some other measure to protect and restore legal abortion rights across the country.”
Asked what she thinks of Congressional Democratic leaders saying the best way to protect abortion rights is to vote Democratic in November, Taylor chuckled.
“The right to abortion was won in a bitter struggle in the streets. You don’t get your rights by waiting for these Democrats,” she said. “This has never happened.”
“Biden doesn’t even say the word ‘abortion,'” she added, which was true until last month. “Relying on them is a losing strategy.”
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