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Elected officials and thousands more call for national action at pro-choice rally

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Capri Fain | The Daily Wildcat

A woman in the crowd raises a fist in solidarity with Betsy Boggia, who speaks at the rally for legal abortion on May 14 in Armory Park in Tucson, Arizona. Boggia says that voter registration has spiked since the Supreme Court leak, but with many bills around the nation seeking to restrict voting rights, she is asking people to sign a petition to put the Arizona Fair Elections Act on the ballot.

Last Saturday was a day of anger, action and community. Thousands met in Armory Park to rally against the leaked Supreme Court decision on Roe v. Wade in a national day of action organized by Women’s March, Planned Parenthood and more. 

Prominent figures, including Tucson Mayor Regina Romero, spoke throughout the rally, which ran from 9-11 a.m.

“As we gather here to protest a leak of a decision on Roe v. Wade from our Supreme Court, I am devastated, and I am pissed off and I am not surprised,” Romero said at the opening of her speech. “I’m here, as pissed off as you are, to call you to action. No more.”

Speakers like Romero urged people to take action through protest and voting for elected officials who will bring about change. They also challenged key arguments against legal abortion, starting with Dr. Cadey Harrel.

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“As an adoptee, I'm tired,” Harrel said. “I am so tired of the forced-birth movement using me and others like me as their poster child for perpetuating and pushing human rights violations.”

RELATED: Pro-choice rally at the steps of the Tucson Courthouse May 3

There is a lot of trauma in growing up as an adoptee in the United States, Harrel said, and forcing a pregnant person to bring a baby into that trauma against their will is not right.

Throughout the morning, it was said over and over again, "abortion is healthcare."

“I don't know anyone who is pro-abortion. Being pro-abortion is like being pro-root canal,” said Shirley Muney of the American Association of University Women, speaking to the point on healthcare. 

A group of transgender rights activists called the Equality Squad spoke to the point that abortion is an important healthcare option for all people with a uterus, not just cisgender women. Among them was 13-year-old Skylar Morrison.

“In 2022 alone, there have been 12 anti-trans bills, and my family is terrified that that number will just keep rising until my existence is erased,” Skylar said, to cries of “No!” and “Ain’t gonna happen,” from the crowd. 

She continued, “First they take away my rights, and now they’re trying to take away yours. Banning abortions isn't about being pro-life, it's about being pro-control.”

Sen. Stephanie Stahl Hamilton, D-Tucson, echoed that point. Court decisions and legislation on human rights are meant to create chaos, she said, and through chaos, those in power can maintain control. 

Faith Ramon from the activist organization Lucha called for legislative action to combat these issues by passing a budget that acknowledges everyone’s needs. 

To another legislative point, Steve Valencia from Arizona Jobs for Justice said that progress cannot be made on any legislative topic until the filibuster is abolished. 

Earlier in the day, Rep. Raúl Grijalva, D-Ariz., also spoke against the filibuster. Democracy is our “self-corrective mechanism” for issues in the United States, he said, but right now, it cannot function as it should. 

“It has been so frustrating for the House of Representatives to pass [and] to send fundamental important, robust initiatives and legislation to the United States Senate and watch it go into an abyss and die there,” Grijalva said. “Now, if voting rights was not the crucible for the filibuster bust, if a woman's rights and co-equal status in this society of ours is not enough, if the patching of our federal court system by ideologues is not enough, then I asked the senator, what is? What is enough?”

To protest Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema’s support of the filibuster, Valencia and other organizers in Arizona and West Virginia will host a rally and sit-in on Monday, May 23, at 11 a.m. beginning in Armory Park and proceeding downtown.

“We want to block that street the same way that Sinema is blocking legislation in the U.S. congress,” Valencia said. “If all of us risk arrest, I think that'd be a powerful message.”

A few people in the crowd, such as Anakarina Rodriguez, were distributing flyers for the rally. It was going great, Rodriguez said. Many people had even agreed to risk arrest by blocking the road, which Rodriguez said was likely aided by the careful organization of the event, with lawyers lined up and more.

The filibuster was not the only issue discussed that day. Various petitions circulated the crowd, including one from Pima County Justice for All that Rodriguez gathered signatures for. With enough signatures, the petition would bring about a bill to provide legal representation for all people in court for immigration offenses, who under current law are not entitled to public defense as any other person would be.

“The only people who have told me no were people who have already signed it,” Rodriguez said. 

Petitioners traveled between people grouped under the shade of trees, and those who braved the hot sun filled up the grass by Armory Park’s stage all the way to the entrance of the park center. A statistician for Women’s March estimated that around 5,000 people attended the rally, according to organizer Amy Fitch-Heacock. 

RELATED: Pro-choice marchers call for action, UA student told to dig in trash

Advertising the event became an issue of its own. Women’s March organizers Tina Kilcullen and Kyleen D’Imperio were taping flyers on poles downtown on May 12 when they noticed a man in a purple City of Tucson security shirt taking down all the flyers behind them. The man was also stopping to take pictures of them on a smartphone. 

He told them that he was protecting businesses downtown but would not give any more information or his name, Kilcullen said. She said she was confused, as police had been present along their route and had not made contact with the organizers, a confirmation to Kilcullen that there was nothing illegal about their flyers. D’Imperio tried to put more up the next day, and a different man wearing the same city security shirt was back, taking them down.

Kilcullen found it telling that the man removed their flyers but left others up, like a small QR code promoting an Instagram account and another promoting music.

“It felt very targeted for our event. Two men came and tore down our flyers two days, back to back, on an event for the Women's March,” Kilcullen said. “Like, you're taking down posters for an event the mayor's gonna be at.”

When another organizer, Amie Town, emailed the Downtown Safety and Maintenance Director, Russ Stone, he responded in an email that “we have addressed the situation.”

It was a frustrating response for the organizers, but despite it, the community showed up in large numbers. Amidst angered calls to action and group education, there was gratitude. 

High schooler Mina Hicks was among those who gave thanks to the community for showing up. She addressed stakes of abortion bans for young people, saying that the Supreme Court decision tells any young person who got pregnant that their futures don’t matter.

“And that means that we don't matter to them – the people in our country making rules? We don't matter to them. That makes me so angry,” Mina said. “I wanted to thank you all for being here today because it means that you care.”

As Mina addressed the crowd, a woman near the front, Joyce Butler, leaned over to her friend. “You would like to think that’s the future right there,” she said. 


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