Posted June 30, 2022
Here is a dossier of reports from Solidarity supporters about abortion rights rallies across the country.
With a demonstration and march of close to 5,000 despite 100-degree temperatures, Austin women and supporters demonstrated against the Supreme Court’s overturning the minimal abortion rights that remained. While the predictable Democratic Party hacks emphasized voting as the solution, many speakers and signs emphasized the need for more militant action. A popular chant ended with “Burn it down!” There isn’t an organized Solidarity contingent in Austin, but DSA brought about 100 members and contributed “Women’s right are workers’ rights” which was not widely joined and “Fuck Abbot, Fuck Biden too, They don’t give a fuck about you” which was definitely more popular.
Apparently an RCP front group got the first call out announcing the location and had control of the platform and sound system. They barely exist here (I didn’t even know they were back around) but were able to keep other more significant groups (ie., DSA) off the mike. We are already discussing how to avoid that situation next time. The actual organizing to bring people out was from any number of other groups – the RCP simply doesn’t have that capability, but groups were ready and went into overdrive when the Supreme Court official word came down.
In chicago on Friday there was a spirited and predominantly young, female and white crowd of perhaps 4,000 people. A mixture of anger and commitment to fight this decision and the likelihood of further rollbacks in rights that people have viewed as normal was evident in the signs and chants.
The coalition that organized this demonstration and others that anticipated this decision is relatively new, Chicago for Abortion Rights. While it has reached out to mainstream women’s organizations, it is led by longtime socialist and lgbtq activists. Speakers came from sponsoring organizations and the Illinois governor spoke at the second straight rally called by chicago 4 abortion rights. People from left organizations like the RCP, Socialist Alternative and the Party for Socialism and Liberation were a small fraction of the crowd. The DSA is a member of chicago 4 abortion rights as are many of the aforementioned groups.
Today under rain and threat of thunderstorms a much smaller crowd of less than 300 people attended. Today, among the speakers was the lieutenant governor of Illinois, Juliana Stratton. I was struck by her straightforward defense of lgbtq rights, especially trans people.
We have a long way to go to build a atrong coalition of groups who prioritize the need to build power and not look to elections to preserve rights that are under attack across the country but the leadership and base of this nascent movement has the potential to grow and encompass a new generation of activists.
Here in Detroit the small group I work with, Michigan Coalition for Reproductive Liberation, has been publicizing an emergency rally for the day of the Supreme Court decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health. We knew that the only reason to hear another anti-abortion case would be to limit or overthrow legal abortion as outlined in Roe v. Wade and subsequent decisions.
When the Alito draft was published, we did hold 4 demonstrations and a trip to the state capitol to disrupt the legislature.
So Friday, June 24th, when the decision was posted, our team worked to get the rally in place and the resources we needed for a 2-hour march through downtown. We had at least 1,000 demonstrators on very hot day.
When I arrived at the federal courthouse to meet with a reporter four hours before the rally, I discovered Homeland Security and the Detroit Police had barriers blocking off the sidewalk and were already in place. It was clear they would not let us set up our sound system on the steps of the courthouse so we set up across the street.
Our rally consisted of a number of short speeches–from a representative of the graduate student union at the University of Michigan, from a Starbucks barista, from a disability rights activist, from Michigan Voices (social justice organizations mostly led by people of color), from Detroit Will Breathe (our BLM formation), from DSA and Detroit Jews for Justice and a couple of us from MCRL (I’m attaching the talk I gave.)
I organized the hour-long rally while others concentrated on the 2-hour march. We called on groups that provided a sound system, a safety group (with a brigade of folks on bikes to help at intersections and also provide water along the way) and the National Lawyers Guild with their team of legal observers. Michigan Liberation helped our crew lead the chants and check in with the marchers.
When we got to the tunnel that goes from Detroit to Windsor, Canada we stood and blocked traffic for 10-15 minutes and then marched back to our starting point.
The police did not follow us as we marched in the street but continued to guard the federal building. I would really like to get the figure of how much was spent guarding the federal building and putting up barriers around it.
MCRL has now held four demonstrations around the Alito leaked draft and today’s action. We also disrupted the state legislature on June 8 (and an earlier, shorter one last December), held a panel discussion for IWD at Wayne State, and picketed a phony clinic last January.
I’d like us to target some of the rightwing legislatures and candidates (one has spoken about how contraception should be limited to married couples) but they aren’t in nearby districts. I also did some research on corporations (AT&T, Ford, GM) who give big bucks to elect rightwing legislators who voted fo restrict abortion and voting rights. For one demo we did march over to the GM building and I gave some background on their funding rightwingers and lobbying but we didn’t develop a campaign around that.
Another idea I had was to hold a one-day conference where we could strategize.
Here’s an outline of my speech at the rally
- The rightwing is a minority and they realize that so they lie, scheme and maneuver so that they can take over sources of power. The Supreme Court, always the most undemocratic of the three branches of government is now under their control. We reject their decisions, which reject our humanity. They grant personhood to corporations, deify guns and want to grant personhood to embryos and fetuses. They use the Federalist Society and rightwing institutes like ALEC to plan their takeover.
- The majority decision which builds up a big case for how U.S. history has always criminalized abortions—those who perform them and shame those who have them—are even wrong on their so-called facts. For thousands of years women determined when and under what conditions they would continue or end their pregnancy. In fact it was only with the rise of the medical profession—less than 200 years ago–that abortion became illegal in the United States.
- We believe that those who are pregnant have the right to decide their future lives. That is they are not trapped in their bodies, forced to become machines. We assert our humanity despite what these creeps say is not covered under the 14th Amendment’s right to liberty.
- With this decision they want to not only criminalize abortion but impose surveillance over our sexuality, both on the part of the state and on the part of our neighbors. They are already moving ahead to criminalize contraception, trying to stop people in Texas from crossing the border to seek abortions in other states and they want to expand their phony clinics to give false information about abortion.
- Of course there are many complications with pregnancies and those who have miscarriages will now be viewed with suspicion. In countries with repressive laws around abortion like El Salvador many who have miscarriages are turned in by neighbors or even medical personnel and charged with manslaughter. When abortion is only permitted when the pregnant person’s life is endangered medical personnel often wait too long to operate and the person dies from septic poisoning.
- We must fight against the attempt to repress our very humanity. We must march, we must petition to overturn the 1931 Michigan law that criminalizes abortion and expand reproductive rights—the right to contraception, to abortion, to pre- and post-natal care along with childbirth, miscarriage management and the right to resist forcible sterilization. All these issues are most important in Detroit, where we have thousands of homeless people, where we suffer food insecurity, where there is a lack of affordable and decent housing, where 58% of our public school children and their families are forced to move from one place to another over the course of a single school year, and where Dan Gilbert has the gall to ask for another $60 million in tax breaks to complete his downtown building. We must use every tool at our disposal, including civil disobedience whether it is sitting down in the middle of a street or whether it is making sure that we know how to get Plan C into the hands of everyone who is able to self-abort or accompany others to clinics in Canada or Illinois. What a wonderful opportunity we have in Michigan to add reproductive freedom into the Michigan Constitution by making sure we have the signatures we need to get the referendum on the November ballot.
There were two protests in Milwaukee. A march of about 1500 in downtown Milwaukee called by PSL and FRSO, but with participation from a number of organizations, and a smaller protest called by Planned Parenthood at a south side park. There were similar protests in other Wisconsin cities like Racine and Kenosha, and I assume Madison.
There were several actions in SF; the one I participated in blocked Market St but was non violent. It involved NARAL, DSA, Workers Voice, Freedom Socialists, PSL, Socialist Alternative and others. Women’s March and Planned Parenthood rallied in another nearby location. There were probably at least 2-3000 in SF, with fairly large protests in Oakland and San Jose.
Claudette and I were at the SF City Hall demo called by Planned Parenthood, although just loosely organized. Groups meeting at the Federal Bldg, just a couple of blocks over, marched to the demo. NARAL had a table and staff also. Claudette talked to staff at both tables to make connections. East Bay DSA was also there with a banner. We made posters for East Bay DSA and there were also small flyers. Socialist Alternative had a table, Amnesty passed out posters, but in general in this space organized political groups were a tiny minority.
In terms of getting the necessary coalitions together, that is at a primitive stage too. The current staff of the main groups like PP and NARAL have no experience like that. I didn’t see any ACLU presence at all, although in our earlier coalition work they were a main group. No NLG presence either. We couldn’t hear the speakers at all, due to the size of the crowd and the poor sound (just a bullhorn). They were all elected officials I think. The Market street demo had better sound with a smaller crowd.
I’d estimate 5000 for SF, probably 3000 for the main City Hall event, plus the Market St event Bill B was at where we stopped by. Also some people just marched around, and there was another group on City Hall steps that remained there chanting throughput the whole time. (The area had been sectioned off due to preparations for the big Pride Day celebrations this weekend.)
Overwhelmingly young. Then some like us, but as Claudette pointed out, not a lot of middle. Good signs. Lots of energy. After the main event, and Planned Parenthood taking down their table, large contingents just started marching somewhere, probably to City Hall steps.