Grief and Anger Over Roe

New Yorkers turned out in force at rallies in Manhattan

| 25 Jun 2022 | 12:36

June 24 felt like a usual Friday at first. The summer air hot, yet welcoming. The birds chirping, the horns honking, the neighbors shouting. New York was alive ... if it ever was dormant. But something did die on Friday, just past 10 a.m.: Roe v. Wade.

And now, this is a post-Roe world.

The draft of the opinion, spearheaded by Justice Samuel Alito, was leaked by Politico in May, and was voted in with a 6-3 majority; former President Donald Trump’s picks were key to the vote. The opinion also struck down the previous precedent set by the ruling in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which ruled against spousal awareness before getting an abortion, under the 14th amendment.

Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan dissented. “In overruling Roe and Casey, this Court betrays its guiding principles. With sorrow — for this Court, but more, for the many millions of American women who have today lost a fundamental constitutional protection — we dissent,” they wrote.

In a Pew Research study published in March, only 8% of Americans said abortion should be illegal in all cases, without exceptions.

The opinion states that “the authority to regulate abortion is returned to the people” and their representatives. But abortion is now illegal or heavily restricted in 13 states.

After the news broke, rallies and protests formed across the country. Hundreds stood in front of the Supreme Court to protest the decision, alongside many others who applauded the news.

Events in Manhattan

There were several protests in Manhattan on Friday. I spent my evening covering the grief and anger at two events at Union Square Park and one at Washington Square Park.

At RiseUp4AbortionRight’s protest at Union Square, the effort was largely coordinated by people in their teens, some shaking on the steps, and shepherding adult speakers. Kids, unable to vote, yet out and concerned nonetheless.

“I can’t take the fact that I’m just gonna have to grow up knowing I’m in a sexist world, that my life doesn’t matter to a lot of people,” said Katie Samuels, 14, one of the protesters. “It’s annoying. It’s pissing me off.”

Elected officials released statements and, like the public, took to Twitter to air their grievances. “Today the Supreme Court rolled back the rights of millions of Americans, disregarding their interests and — more importantly — their lives. Access to abortion is a fundamental human right, and it remains safe, accessible, and legal in New York,” said Governor Kathy Hochul.

More protests were planned for the coming days, including a rally for abortion rights hosted by Assemblymember Rebecca Seawright on June 25 at 5:30 p.m. at Carl Schurz Park, and a march from the social feminist contingent of the Queer Liberation March at City Hall on June 26 at 1 p.m.

“I’m Old Enough to Remember”

An older male protester, Bob Brenner, was one of many men attending these events. “I’m old enough to remember. My grandmother had to get I got an unsafe abortion back in the day, my mother told me, back in the 1940s. And I don’t want to see any more generations have to go through that, where they are forced to get an unsafe abortion,” Brenner said. “I think it was done in somebody’s basement somewhere in Brooklyn. I mean, she was okay, she lived. But ... there’s no reason for that. This is just a political thing by a bunch of fascist Christians that want to impose their views on everyone else.”

A rally in Washington Square Park, which began near the arch, felt less like a protest at first and more like a mosh-pit for change. It soon overtook the park and people flooded onto West 4th Street, spanning the length of the park. News vans lined Fifth Avenue going north, as they did at 14th Street at Union Square. News helicopters soared over both parks to capture the sheer scale of people in attendance at these events.

At Washington Square Park, a small remote-controlled drone, with a battery whirring loudly, flew under the arch to get a piece of the action. Some press managed to break into the inner sphere of crowd with large news cameras, but most were just people trying to be active in the movement. Police lined the outside of the parks, to enforce the flow of traffic once the marches began.

The protesters from Washington Square marched uptown to Union Square Park, just as a sunset vigil for Roe, coordinated by BIPOC community leaders, was commencing.

The candle lighting and prayer was led by Rabbi Abby Stein, the first openly trans woman raised in the Hasidic community. She made reference to Jewish law, which prioritizes the life of the mother.

“If there is the slightest chance of danger to a pregnant person, whether physically or mentally ... we are obligated to do that,” Stein said. “Choosing to get an abortion is choosing life.”