New York City
By Debra Sweet
New York City: I went on the very fast Walk that zoomed up Broadway from Foley Square, around Washington Square Park and back down in a little over an hour. There were 101 people — I counted, with 2 older than me, and about 70% women under 25, a few younger guys. They wanted to walk & scream with their home made signs. They did really loud whoops under awnings that got attention, and generally favorable comments. People wanted to talk to me about my sign, but we didn’t have time to stop and talk to anyone if we wanted to keep up. The main chants they did were “We Have A Choice! We Have a Voice!” and “What do you want? Choice! When do you want it? Now!”
Lots of spontaneous energy. I would say the dominant sentiment was outrage — they can’t do this; we won’t let them. A lot was attributed to Republicans being in power. Those in the lead said they heard about it on tumblr. I didn’t know anyone from that 100.
When we returned from the Walk, THE Planned Parenthood started. About 4,000 people came, mostly younger women. Some of the union activists and leftists from the “Save the American Dream” rally a few blocks away, which was also several thousand, joined in. Most of the speakers were politicians, local, state and national.
The message was don’t cut funding for women’s health, Title X and PPFA. Kathleen Turner spoke, but I missed her. Kathleen Hanna from Bikini Kill talked about getting care at PP in Chicago in 1989. Amanda Marcotte talked about her #thanksPPFA campaign on Twitter.
My sign (written by Richie M) was well received — probably 200 people took photos. Memo to Congress, advertisers, and so-called pro “life”ers:
The most DANGEROUS place for a WOMAN is a country without ABORTION and BIRTH CONTROL. worldcantwait.net
Reports from other areas:
Chicago: I estimated 400 to 500 people, overwhelmingly under 30 years of age, very unapologetic. The weather was awful, snow and cold, and got worse as the afternoon went on. I know several of my older friends couldn’t come because of it. Lina can describe the one older woman who tried to tell them they shouldn’t say “abortion” – keep the rhetoric at “choice” – they weren’t buying it!
One woman, about 30 years old, made her sign, “Planned Parenthood saved my life.” She said she was 20 years old; her Christian fundamentalist father drove her to the clinic, paid for her abortion, while her mother still hasn’t forgiven her. She told me that one middle aged woman who was watching from the sidelines, came up to her, pointed to her sign, said “me too” and walked away.
Many creative signs, including one that said, “You screw us, we’ll multiply, and you’ll be in real trouble.” Another young woman made this sign; it looked like a cartoon cell, with a woman in a bathing suit coming out of a body of water, with words, “I’m tired of swimming in a patriarchal sea.” The two banners – Abortion Providers Save Women’s Lives and Abortion on Demand & Without Apology – brought by World Can’t Wait were the backdrop for the rally.
There were young women dressed for the occasion in bright orange, some with flowing skirts over their jeans, and this contributed to the mood of joyous determination. Another woman had an outrageous huge wig of many colors, shaped like the hair of a pharoah — she said in honor of the Egyptian people.
A number of young women I spoke with thanked us veterans for continuing the battle for reproductive rights.
At the rally, one of the loudest cheers went up for the contingent from Medical Students for Choice from the medical school at U of I-Chicago. One of the female medical students told the crowd of her abortion 3 weeks ago that was safe, with proper pain medication, and support from her pro-choice friends. She pointed out that she became pregnant when she was using an IUD.
[from another report] I was most struck by was the young people in the march. It was overwhelmingly young and they were not afraid to say exactly how they felt, whereas I felt some of the older people were too tempered or bothered by the frankness of the youth.
Seeing the youth among the crowd made me think of how hard we have worked to get youth to take the lead of a movement of resistance. I really saw the potential in this today…not just with standing up for Women’s Rights to abortion and birth control but, really taking the lead in demanding an end to wars/occupations and torture…so when I had the opportunity, I tied the oppression of women into the overall oppression of humanity in the wars/occupations and torture. Many of the crowd were I think acutely aware of the need for consistent visible resistance and when Lina and I spoke of Egypt and Libya and all the countries that are rising up against oppression they understood it…still though there was a tendency among some of the crowd to put the blame solely on the right wing fascist rather than looking at the fact that the Democrats don’t act in the interest of women either when they seek to find common ground with the antis…but we addressed this over and over and emphasized this why people had to take responsibility for fighting these viscous onslaughts and when we did most of the crowd got it and agreed. It was a really great day!
Champaign-Urbana, IL: We also had a Walk for Choice yesterday! Like the other walks, ours was also mostly all young women. On Monday, I met with the Gender Action Network (student organizers at the University of Illinois who have feminist student groups, such as NOW, Feminist Majority, etc.), and they said it was too late to get a Walk for Choice organized. However, I launched a Facebook invite on Tuesday and we did it!
Photo and report from Heather Ault, 4000yearsforchoice.com
On Friday evening, four young women (three who were sophomores from a sorority on campus) joined me in making banners and signs in the basement of the English Building on campus. The “sisters” shared that they didn’t talk politics in their sorority because it was too controversial, but they each identified as liberal, had very progressive moms, and were concerned about Planned Parenthood.
The day of the walk, about 20 people came out – all women students (+two guys) plus two young non-students and one woman who was a counselor on campus who worked with students on sexuality issues. We met at Planned Parenthood on the sidewalk (which is located one block from campus). We read aloud summaries of each of the bills (HR358, HR3, HR217, South Dakota HB1171, and Georgia HB1). I thought this would be helpful to us in learning exactly what these bills said. We did a ceremonial “boooo” after each one. We also read a list of all the services PP provides and cheered.
We walked around Champaign, through the restaurant and bar district, over to campus, and back to PP again and chanted from a list of rally chants I found online (there were about 20 good ones!) About half-way through, I gave the megaphone over to the president of NOW and this gal did an amazing job! This was also my first time with a bullhorn, so I was a bit nervous (but the old high school cheerleader in me kicked in!) We had lots of waves and supportive honks during the walk!
At the end, we stood in front of PP and formally introduced ourselves and described how we could keep in touch (names of student groups, organizations we work with, etc.) The overall feeling was – YES! Let’s keep doing this!!! If we weren’t standing out in the cold, we could have hung out a while and chatted. There was the feeling of, is it over already!? So, it was a lingering departure.
Also, Planned Parenthood of Champaign recently put up a banner on their building reading “Stand with Planned Parenthood” and a number to text a message. I thought this was pretty interesting! Good for them, it’s time to bring it local and I think they are changing their tune.
Honolulu: Two organizations called for protests on Saturday noon at the State Capitol. One, a rally and march to support the protests in Wisconsin was called by MoveOn. A second rally and march was called by Planned Parenthood as part of the national “Walk for Choice.”
World Can’t Wait responded to the call made by Planned Parenthood and came to the Capitol with lots of Pro-Choice signs and banners It was a good thing we did, because many Pro-Choice supporters hadn’t made their own signs, and picked up one of ours. We have often brought banners and signs saying “Abortion on Demand, and Without Apology” to events, and people have generally backed off from carrying them – and have often expressed their disagreement with the slogan. This time the slogan was welcomed. The Planned Parenthood CEO gave us a thumbs-up as soon as she saw it. Two youth who had never met us before picked up another.
More than 150 people came to support the unions; about 50 to support a women’s right to choose. The two groups merged the rallies, first one person from one group taking the mic, and then someone from the other group. Liz Rees, spokesperson for World Can’t Wait-Hawai`i, gave one of the three talks supporting reproductive rights and received repeated applause. She was the only one to boldly speak out for abortion, and to link the “Walk for Choice” with national events to defend the right to abortion. Her call to be bold, and to refuse to compromise on a women’s right to choose was met with resounding approval. For those who had come to support the unions, this may have been the first time they’d heard such a talk, and many people approached Liz after the rally to thank her.
The march was even more confusing than the rally, with pro-choice signs mixed in with a variety of signs reading everying from “Defend the American Dream” to “Defend Unions” and “Kill the Bill”. A passer-by along the way obviously understood the pro-choice signs, but then asked why we were marching for civil unions, when the governor had signed the bill granting civil unions last week. While the merging of the two groups was confusing to some, others linked the tea party attacks against both organized labor and choice.
In spite of the confusion, getting out more than 200 people on the Honolulu streets with less than 3 days notice was remarkable, and there seemed to be a renewed sense that the need for resistance is more urgent now than ever.
Seattle: Good day in Seattle! About 600 people, mostly young women, college students, came out. We held a speakout on-stage. Some of the chants were “abortion on demand and without apology, without this basic right, women can’t be free!” and “a woman should decide her fate, not the church and not state!”
The speakout was very powerful. We called on women to share their stories of having an abortion. Some other people said that we shouldn’t talk about abortion and that we should just stick to talking about “choice”. One older woman was saying that she was so happy she was able to have had an abortion, that she felt relieved because she didn’t have to take care of child she wasn’t ready for. There was another women who said that people shouldn’t feel shame about taking care of their bodies.
A woman talked about how on the march she had started to cry once she saw all the women on the sidelines who were clapping their hands and cheering, and when she saw their faces light up when they saw us coming down the street. People traveled from all parts of the state to come and the feeling of empowerment was really electric.
After the older woman started to speak about their experience, girls as young as 17 told their stories. One young girl said that she had a really cruel boyfriend, she got pregnant and was able to have an abortion. If she didn’t have the ability to do that, she would be in a really bad situation and she was glad that she has the life she has today. Some women were crying in hearing these stories.
It was very heartening to people who have been continuously fighting for abortion rights and the liberation of women to see women in the streets after years of being afraid, put on the defensive and kept out of the streets. Older people were also inspired by the young women that came out to show that they are not ashamed to talk about reproductive issues, birth control or abortion.
Philadelphia: About 200 walked, joined in with a rally for union rights.
Greensboro, NC: Between 70 and 80 people from various parts of North Carolina participated in protests today in Greensboro in support of abortion rights, and against the attacks against women’s rights in Congress and in state governments.Initiated by a blogger in Chicago and coordinated by a spontaneous network of volunteers on sites like tumblr and facebook, the walk for Choice took place in more than 50 cities in the US, with others occurring in Canada and the UK.
Women, mostly 25 and under, made up the majority of participants in Greensboro, which also had significant participation of women who were brought into activism in the days before Roe v. Wade. Several men also participated, coming in with friends from Charlotte, Raleigh, and Winston-Salem. Drummers from the Cakalak Thunder Radical Drum Corps provided the beats along the march, which took place up the main downtown strip. All the placards were handwritten, with messages like “May the baby you save be gay,” “Abortion on demand without apology,” “I’m a woman, not a womb”, and a bright orange banner painted with the words, “Abortion providers are heroes: A fetus is not a baby, abortion is not murder, women are not incubators!”
On returning to the park where the march began, several marchers took part in an open mic and reflected on the serious situation we’re now confronting. A 60-year old marcher who had broad experience with women seeking abortion in the days before Roe told several stories of the horrors women faced and warned of the very real danger of going back to those days if we don’t oppose the rash of laws being put forward. A young woman told the crowd that she was going to be moving to Kansas soon, in spite of (or really because of) the fact that Kansas has been the site of massive anti-abortion activity, and that she is going to commit herself fully to the pro-choice movement there.
The organizer of the march, for whom this was the first protest that she had ever organized, talked about the attcks on Planned Parenthood, and emphasized the importance of taking action, even if you have no experience organizing or mobilizing people. Se added that social networking sites have become a very powerful tool in the hands of activists.
Another activist who supports the Revolutionary Communist Party emphasized the importance of fighting the lies of anti-choice forces with scientific understanding, adding that it’s crucial not to be afraid of using the word “abortion”, nor to apologize for being in support of full equality for women. Oranigzers with World Can’t Wait distributed the leaflet, “Stand up for women’s Right to Abortion and Birth Control in 2011!” and made the connection between the attacks on women and the fascist trajectory in the US, which includes the demonization of Muslims and immigrants, as well as the ongoing wars.
Los Angeles: 250-300 people gathered at Pershing Square in Downtown L.A. Men and Women, students, families; splattering of orange. I spoke to students who came from over an hour’s drive to participate. Many of them representing community colleges, universities. People took the World Can’t Wait Abortion Statement readily and Abortion on Demand, without Apology. Of the 30+ people I spoke with, only one had heard of Dr. Sue Wicklund and loved the book. All said they would check out the website, the book and the DVD with Sunsara and Sue.
No one had heard of World Can’t Wait and when I said WCW wears orange to stand against torture and to rally people to stand against Crimes of this Government; there was lots of agreement. Asked people to join in the streets on March 19th Against the War. The majority were unaware of the march.
1 2 3 4 Open up the Clinic Door
5 6 7 8 You can’t make us Procreate!
and the standard:
When Women’s Rights
Are Under Attack,
What do we Do?
Stand Up Fight Back!