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Tampa Bay protesters speak out about possible overturning of abortion ruling

Hundreds attended demonstrations on both sides of the bay. Similar rallies took place across the state, including one outside the Florida Supreme Court in Tallahassee.
Sarah Noles, 22, Erica Dunlap, 24, and Khaleel Hamed, 24, all from Clearwater, hold their Roe v. Wade pro-choice signs while listening to speakers at a reproductive rights rally at the Joe Chillura Courthouse Square on Tuesday in Tampa.
Sarah Noles, 22, Erica Dunlap, 24, and Khaleel Hamed, 24, all from Clearwater, hold their Roe v. Wade pro-choice signs while listening to speakers at a reproductive rights rally at the Joe Chillura Courthouse Square on Tuesday in Tampa. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]
Published May 4|Updated Jun. 23

Hundreds protested on both sides of Tampa Bay Tuesday in the wake of a leaked draft of a U.S. Supreme Court opinion that would overturn Roe v. Wade .

Many lifted signs in support of abortion rights, while others waved pride flags and demanded action. Organizers passed petitions and registered attendees to vote. The mood was consistent throughout the crowd: Anger. Not just with the Supreme Court’s possible decision, but with the state of the progressive movement.

“It’s a weird situation,” said Bernice Lauredan, 30. “We’re all shocked, but also not at all surprised. Florida is continually seeing its basic human rights stripped away. That’s why we need Tampa to be a place that’s safe for everyone.”

Bernice Lauredan, 30, from Tampa, with the Dream Defenders, addresses supporters at a reproductive rights rally Tuesday at the Joe Chillura Courthouse Square in Tampa.
Bernice Lauredan, 30, from Tampa, with the Dream Defenders, addresses supporters at a reproductive rights rally Tuesday at the Joe Chillura Courthouse Square in Tampa. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]

Lauredan was an organizer for Tampa’s protest at Joe Chillura Courthouse Square, which drew around 75 people —including Democratic U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor.

Related: ‘It’s surreal’: Tampa Bay grapples with likely overturn of Roe v. Wade

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Related: Photos: Rallies in Tampa Bay area over Roe v. Wade developments at U.S. Supreme Court

Michelle Gajda, 44, admitted to feeling a bit of “activism fatigue” when news broke. But that quickly turned to anger and a desire to mobilize progressives to elect Democrats and fight against the “conservative stacking of judges” in state and federal courts.

“This is a huge wake-up call to everyone who thought electing (President Joe) Biden was enough,” she said.

Related: Will Florida Republicans ban abortion? Here’s what we know.

Across the bay, more than 100 people gathered outside the St. Petersburg courthouse, chanting “bans off our bodies” and holding signs.

The rally was organized by state Rep. Michele Rayner and the Pinellas Democratic Progressive Caucus. .

”It is you who are going to make the change,” Rayner said.

State Rep. Michele Rayner leads the crowd in chants during an abortion-rights rally organized by Rayner and the Pinellas Democratic Progressive Caucus on the steps of the Pinellas County courthouse in the wake of a leaked draft of a majority opinion from the United States Supreme Court detailing the intent to strike down Roe v Wade, Tuesday in St. Petersburg.
State Rep. Michele Rayner leads the crowd in chants during an abortion-rights rally organized by Rayner and the Pinellas Democratic Progressive Caucus on the steps of the Pinellas County courthouse in the wake of a leaked draft of a majority opinion from the United States Supreme Court detailing the intent to strike down Roe v Wade, Tuesday in St. Petersburg. [ MARTHA ASENCIO-RHINE | Times ]

Christina Weil 33, says she doesn’t voice her political opinions often.

”I’m a Black woman, and I’m not heard. I’m just not a part of the demographic that’s heard,” Weil said.

However, she said she couldn’t stay quiet. Weil said it’s more than just abortion rights that are uncertain right now — she worries about the fate of other major Supreme Court decisions, such as Brown V. Board of Education, too.

Related: Florida Democrats vow to protect abortion rights after leaked Supreme Court draft on Roe

For Meghan Gillespie, 33, of Riverview, a person’s right to an abortion is deeply personal. At 17, Gillespie found out she was pregnant.

People attend an abortion-rights rally organized by Florida Rep. Michele Rayner and the Pinellas Democratic Progressive Caucus on the steps of the county courthouse in the wake of a leaked draft of a majority opinion from the United States Supreme Court detailing the intent to strike down Roe v Wade, Tuesday in St. Petersburg.
People attend an abortion-rights rally organized by Florida Rep. Michele Rayner and the Pinellas Democratic Progressive Caucus on the steps of the county courthouse in the wake of a leaked draft of a majority opinion from the United States Supreme Court detailing the intent to strike down Roe v Wade, Tuesday in St. Petersburg. [ MARTHA ASENCIO-RHINE | Times ]

”I got pregnant and the timing was not right,” she said. “I’m very, very thankful I had voices of reason to help me through with that.”

Now a mother, she said she’s glad she had the choice about when to start a family.

Democratic U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist addresses the crowd during an abortion-rights rally organized by Florida Rep. Michele Rayner and the Pinellas Democratic Progressive Caucus on the steps of the county courthouse Tuesday in St. Petersburg.
Democratic U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist addresses the crowd during an abortion-rights rally organized by Florida Rep. Michele Rayner and the Pinellas Democratic Progressive Caucus on the steps of the county courthouse Tuesday in St. Petersburg. [ MARTHA ASENCIO-RHINE | Times ]

Just a block away, the Party for Socialism and Liberation in Tampa Bay held its own rally at 6 p.m. Organizers estimate about 150-250 people attended its demonstration.

”Abortion is a human right, and abortions are going to continue, no matter what,” said 22-year-old Karla Correa, an organizer of the rally. “There’s organizations here that are willing to help people get abortions … it’s not going to stop, it’s just going to make it much more difficult.”

People attend an abortion-rights rally and march organized by Party for Socialism and Liberalism Tampa Bay along Central Avenue in the wake of a leaked draft of a majority opinion from the United States Supreme Court detailing the intent to strike down Roe v Wade, Tuesday in St. Petersburg.
People attend an abortion-rights rally and march organized by Party for Socialism and Liberalism Tampa Bay along Central Avenue in the wake of a leaked draft of a majority opinion from the United States Supreme Court detailing the intent to strike down Roe v Wade, Tuesday in St. Petersburg. [ MARTHA ASENCIO-RHINE | Times ]

Related: Most Florida voters oppose abortion bans, polls show

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