Protests over a US supreme court decision that overturned abortion rights continued across the country this weekend. In New York, thousands marched to voice their anger at the ruling that came at the end of a dizzying week around not just reproductive rights but also gun carry laws and the US Capitol attack.
“Not your uterus, not your choice,” many shouted as the demonstrations progressed in Washington DC., New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles, Seattle, Atlanta and Austin.
In Providence, Rhode Island, tempers flared so much that an off-duty police officer was accused of punching a woman at an abortion protest. Jennifer Rourke, a state senate candidate, told the Providence Journal she was punched in the face by Jeann Lugo, who had been running for the GOP nomination for a Rhode Island state senate seat but dropped out the race.
Lugo said he was “not going to deny” the punching allegation but added that “everything happened very fast”. For the most part, protests across the US have been peaceful.
In New York, they fell across Pride weekend honoring the achievements of the LGBTQ community, with thousands gathering downtown to simultaneously celebrate and give voice to anger. Marchers said in some cases they were both shell-shocked by the supreme court decision and happy to be celebrating, gender identities and sexual orientations that some like the court’s conservative justices might find contrary.
“It’s a similar feeling to when Trump got elected,” said film editor Oriana Soddu. Soddu said she knew the stripping of nationwide abortion rights was coming after the 2 May leak of a draft ruling saying so, but “for it to actually happen is still a shock”.
The anger, Soddu said, was toward the political system itself. “The Republicans clearly have a very strong agenda and we’ve let this happen,” she said. “My fear is they’re going to go after gay marriage” next.
The crowds that gathered in New York’s Washington Square on Saturday were, for the most part, there to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the New York City Dyke March. Organizers billed the march as a “celebration of our beautiful and diverse dyke lives” that also doubled as a protest of discrimination, harassment, and violence against lesbians, but it also energized a pro-abortion rights demonstration.
“It’s been different to realize that in the eyes of the constitution and the court you’re not really a person and you don’t have autonomy over yourself,” said longtime American activist and socialist organizer Leslie Cagan. “A lot of good things have come for virtually every community that has struggled for a modicum of rights, and now it’s all hanging by a thread.”
“I hope that those people and those communities are beginning to get it that if we don’t work together and get beyond the rhetoric of solidarity in which everybody does their own thing, none of our people are going to win,” Cagan added. “We haven’t been collectively tuned in to how big and dangerous the power against us is.”
Cindy Greenberg, also marching Saturday, said she thought those forces were really not committed to the notion of a democracy.
“It feels like when Trump was elected,” Greenberg said. “This whole period of time has shown that they’re not. This week has been extraordinary – it shown us that they’re willing to sell all of us down the river.”
Lisa Ann Markuson said she came with her typewriter to write poems for protesters gathered in the park in part because having a normal Pride party day felt strange. “It’s not, ‘Yay, we’re cool, we’re queer!’ It felt farcical to come out here and party like it’s 2008 because it isn’t. People want to set something on fire, but there’s also a sense of apathy and alienation.
“America is supposed to be about freedom but [what] is this? Corporations have freedom and people are supposed to think they have freedom because they have a lot of consumer choices.”
Mel Melendes said that being proud and protesting were one and the same. “I’m proud to be here because the louder we express ourselves the more you shine light on what’s wrong.” Added Elisa Buttafuoco: “If we weren’t fighting we wouldn’t be ourselves, we wouldn’t be the queer community. Queer rights is abortion rights is trans rights. It’s all interwoven.”
Some on the march wondered if the protest would go the same way if the decision to lift abortion protections primarily affected the queer community.
“As a minority community it feels like we’re protesting for everything,” said Afrah Boateng. “It feels like there is something to protest every year around Pride. Today it’s for straight families and straight women. But I guess Pride started as protest, so it’s built in.”
According to a CBS poll published Sunday, most disapprove of overturning the nationwide abortion rights established by the landmark Roe v Wade case, including two-thirds of women. By more than a 20-point margin, Americans call it a step backward for the US.
Younger people are especially likely to disapprove; most moderates disapprove along with nine in 10 liberals; two-thirds of Hispanic Americans disapprove, three-fourths of Black Americans and just over half of White Americans disapprove.
The three-fourths of conservatives who do support the ruling said they felt hopeful and happy.