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.”
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.
“We're seeing roll backs on reproductive rights, civil rights & LGBT rights. This is not what our country stands for” 2/2— Colleen Wright (@Colleen_Wright) May 3, 2022
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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.
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.
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.
For Meghan Gillespie, 33, of Riverview, a person’s right to an abortion is deeply personal. At 17, Gillespie found out she was pregnant.
”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.
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.”