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By 2 p.m. Friday, at least 500 people gathered outside the U.S. Supreme Court, and within an hour the crowd had grown to more than 1,000. They said they came out of anger, and out of despair. But ultimately, many people gathered because, after the Supreme Court officially ended the constitutional right to abortion in the U.S., it was all they could do.
Olivia Ernach, 20, is from Arkansas, where one such trigger law is set to take effect. She’s an intern at an event management firm (the Markham Group) that specializes in political events. She and her co-workers arrived at the court early with stickers, bandanas, and t-shirts to support protestors and spread the word about the court’s decision. She was grateful to be out at the protest because, like many of us, she felt it was something to do.
“I know women my age are feeling lost and frustrated right now, so getting out here today and raising awareness is what I want to do,” she says.
The crowd, which at times felt a little lost, showcased the diversity of Americans who support abortion rights across age, race, and gender. City Paper spoke to people ranging in age from 20 to 56. But young children and seniors were out in force, too.
“I’m 56,” Shafi Saxena says. “I can’t believe I’m still marching for this shit.”
Alexandria, 21, says she came because her great-grandmother raised her and fought for her right to choose. “I don’t want to be the post-Roe generation,” she says. “I don’t want that for my kids.”
Though she declined to give her last name, Alexandria, who will return home to Ohio at the end of summer, notes sarcastically: “One in five women are sexually assaulted—so this decision makes a lot of sense.” (Ohio doesn’t have a trigger law, but the state legislature is set to pass a ban on abortion.)
Protest leaders led numerous chants: “Fuck you, SCOTUS,” was on repeat, followed by the last names of the six conservative justices. They called for “legal abortion on demand.”
“I’m here because I’m sad and angry. And I want to do something to show my support and disgust at our country right now,” says Rafid Hussein, a 28-year-old who identifies as a straight man. “All rights are women’s rights, are human rights, and women’s rights are being taken away right now. It’s my duty, everyone’s duty, to be here right now to support the folks who are losing their rights.”
Though many of the protestors were dressed for the humidity, some had clearly dropped whatever they were doing to attend. Two girls say they were visiting a museum when they heard the news and decided to come to the court instead.
Anti-abortion protesters, some wearing salmon pink jackets and Blue Lives Matter hats, and others sporting mullets, also showed up and at times clashed with the people who gathered in support of reproductive rights.
The DC Dyke March was one of the event’s lead organizers. One speaker, who identified as a member of the LGBTQ community, also spoke about the need for trans health care and addressed the growing concern that the court’s decision today is just the beginning of the end for constitutional rights that have existed for decades.
“They want to see queer people and women eliminated,” the speaker said. “Going for women is the first step, then they’re going for everyone.”
Ward 3 Councilmember Mary Cheh made the same point at a press conference this afternoon, warning that the court’s reasoning could also apply to other established rights.
“We are about to enter into decades of darkness with this court,” said Cheh, who teaches constitutional law at The George Washington University. “The very reasoning of the case … means that many other liberties will be in jeopardy.
In a concurring opinion, Justice Clarence Thomas says the court also “should reconsider” its decisions granting rights to contraception, same-sex intimacy, and same-sex marriage.
“How callous and venal these men in the majority are,” Cheh continued. “They tell women, ‘No problem, you can just give the baby up.’ Can you believe that? These are Taliban judges in terms of how they treat women and women’s bodies.”