Thousands protest to protect abortion rights
Thousands of people gathered in downtown Portland for a “Bans Off Our Bodies” demonstration on Saturday, May 14. This event was one of many scheduled to take place across the country following a leak from the U.S. Supreme Court, which warns that a reversal of the Roe v. Wade decision on abortion could come soon.
Roe v. Wade was the 1973 monumental U.S. Supreme Court decision which concluded that the government cannot use excessive restriction to prevent women from obtaining abortions. The reversal of this decision would transfer responsibility to the states to determine the legality of abortion. In the U.S, there are 13 states that could make abortion Illegal, and 13 more that are likely to ban abortion if the Supreme Court moves forward with the draft ruling.
The Clackamas Print had the opportunity to speak with a few of the event coordinators for Bans Off Our Bodies before the demonstration officially took place. Christel Allen from Pro-Choice Oregon said, “In this country, we have never had a constitutional right be taken away. I’m one of millions of people out today to say, ‘fuck that.’”
The demonstration was a lively event. There were several stations set up throughout the area where people could buy merchandise, get water and snacks, or even do crafts if they got overwhelmed. Many people were playing music and canvassers moved through the crowd offering to help people sign up to vote.
Around 2 p.m the demonstrators started chanting in unison. The sheer mass of people sprawled onto the step of the Justice Center that overlooks Chapman Square, and the conjoined words of the crowd could be heard from several blocks away. Several speakers took turns standing before the crowd to share motivational messages, suggestions for how to support the people affected by this decision and personal testimonies from people who have had abortions.
Katie Jahangiri, an organizer for PDX For Reproductive Rights said, “We will become a sanctuary state, where disproportionately black and indigenous individuals in surrounding states will lose their access and come here. We need to be able and ready to provide those resources for them.”
Jahangiri had a question for those that support future bans on abortion; she asked, “Are you prepared for what it means when we start losing constitutional rights?”
The demonstration was a relatively safe event with only a single confrontation taking place on the outskirts of the crowd. This confrontation took place when a group of counter-protestors clashed with some individuals in black bloc clothing. Wikipedia says, “Black bloc is a tactic used by protesters who wear black clothing, ski masks, scarves, sunglasses, motorcycle helmets with padding, or other face-concealing and face-protecting items. The altercation ended quickly once security personnel separated the two groups.
There was little police presence in the area during the demonstration; instead, safety for the event was facilitated by freelance security personnel in correspondence with groups like The Portland EWOKS, a crisis medical group who has been present at many local protests in the past.
Kourtney Steel, an independent security officer who was hired for the event said, “We need to work harder to protect marginalized communities, and Portland is getting worse. The incidents, rates of violence, shootings, we need to be able to support ourselves because it is apparent that law enforcement doesn’t necessarily have the resources available to do so.”