Around 30-50 Tucsonans marched in support of legal abortion at the federal courthouse downtown on Sunday, May 8.
The small rally made some nervous that police would intervene, and before the march began, a security officer stopped a University of Arizona student and instructed them to dig through trash.
The protest comes almost a week after the Supreme Court’s draft decision to overturn the protections for abortion from the 1973 decision, Roe v. Wade, was leaked.
The Sunday event was organized by the Party for Socialism and Liberation, whose organizers called for legislative action and awareness. The march was smaller than the hundreds-strong march on May 3 for the same cause.
Local rallies have been ignited by national events in larger U.S. cities as some fight to ensure that abortion remains legal for women nationwide. Emotions and security were high on Sunday.
A few minutes before Sunday’s protest began at around 5 p.m., six people gathered in the courtyard in front of the federal courthouse. UA junior Catherine Hill was picking up trash around the area when a security guard from the courthouse came up and instructed everyone to move to the sidewalk.
The guard said the courtyard was private courthouse property and the courthouse was closed, so people would be arrested for trespassing if they stayed. The protestors did not previously know it was off-limits and complied.
Hill threw the last of the trash in a garbage can when the guard told them to stop.
“I was cleaning up the trash because it was messy and we were waiting,” Hill said after the incident. The guard was “insisting that I had spray paint.”
The guard told them she was watching them through a courthouse camera, and she saw them throw a can of spray paint in the garbage, Hill said. Hill had set a water bottle down in the courtyard and had nothing else.
“She didn't even have a can to point to,” Hill said. “I dove through the whole trash to look, it was gross.”
After about a minute of digging, more protestors arrived and a group of five to 10 of them came over to Hill and the guard. They were threatened with arrest, but they did not leave and asked what was going on as they watched from a few feet away.
People called out that the guard tried to intimidate Hill, who followed the guard’s instructions. Hill was emotionally shaken, they said, after they were also asked to produce ID.
Tina Kilcullen, an organizer for Women’s March, asked the guard if they needed ID to pick up trash. Upon being handed Hill’s CatCard, the guard allowed them to return to the group.
“The interesting part of that is that she let me go once she saw my school ID, and she also didn't say anything about the spray paint once people came over,” Hill said.
After more people gathered, the protesters spread along the sidewalk, faced the street and began to chant and call for action.
“Keep abortion safe, keep abortion legal,” was a popular chant throughout the march. “Hands off our bodies, bans off our bodies,” and “Pro life is a lie, you don’t care if people die,” was also heard.
Before marching, PSL organizer Tanya Núñez addressed the crowd.
“Abortion rights weren’t a gift given from above,” she said. “We had to fight for that in the ‘60s and ‘70s.”
Núñez emphasized abortion rights are connected with many different health and social issues. The movement must be outside of the Democrats and Republicans, she said, while acknowledging that the people in power want to support the capitalist system, not people’s rights.
She urged for abortion rights to be signed into law, not just debated in the courts.
“It's about changing the whole damn system so that people’s needs are met,” Núñez said.
Movements around abortion and women’s rights often center around white women, even though women of color have their bodies constantly regulated, Nuñez said. This movement must protect women of color, she said, and that it also must protect all those at risk, including transgender people.
After Núñez’s remarks, the group marched in a loop down Broadway Boulevard, Fourth Avenue, Sixth Street and Stone Avenue ending near the Pima County Court buildings downtown.
Many passersby honked in support, cheering and clapping, though one person yelled expletives out their car window, and two men shouted “Stop killing babies!” Some people joined the chants as the group passed, and five men high-fived the passing marchers with grins and cheers.
Tucson Police Department officers were present at many points along the route in SUVs and motorcycles.
“They’re in the shadows waiting, mounting up right now because they don’t know how big we’re gonna get,” Kilcullen said when the group was in front of the courthouse.
At the end of the route, people gathered in a circle to share personal experiences of exercising their abortion rights due to medical, economic and emotional reasons. Organizers urged attendees to get involved in volunteering, donating and voting. Kilcullen emphasized that it is important to call and email legislators.
The PSL’s official statement on abortion rights and the Supreme Court’s draft decision can be read at liberationnews.org.
Another march is scheduled for May 14 in Armory Park, organized by Women's March, Planned Parenthood and others as part of a day of national action.
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