March 25, 2024

Build a United Front to Fight Police Aggression against Abortion Rights Activists

Statement by NYC Mobilization for Reproductive Justice

On March 23, 2024, the NYC Mobilization for Reproductive Justice organized a labor contingent to join the counter-protest initiated by NYC for Abortion Rights against the anti-abortion “International Gift of Life” rally at Foley Square in Manhattan. Despite the heavy rain, abortion rights activists including our contingent outnumbered the right-wing protesters, many of whom were bused in from outside the city. The far-right extremists, including the group Witness for Life tied to the Archdiocese of NY, convened their event around their patriarchal ideology of “fetal personhood” over the life of the woman or child-bearing person.

Fighters for reproductive justice stood together and drowned out the right-wingers with chants like “‘Pro life’ that’s a lie, you don’t care if people die!” and “The people united will never be defeated!” affirming their staunch defense of reproductive choice and free abortion on demand as fundamental healthcare rights amidst escalating political assaults on bodily autonomy in the U.S. and globally. The counter protest was multiracial, multi-gendered and multi-generational. Several speeches during the counter-rally notably connected the genocide in Gaza to the issue of reproductive justice, highlighting the links between human rights and liberation struggles.

What began as a peaceful counter-demonstration ended in violence perpetrated by the NYPD, led by their notoriously aggressive rapid response unit, Strategic Response Group (SRG), which has specifically targeted social justice activists. Cops made multiple arrests of pro-choice protesters on supposed noise violations according to one ACLU protest observer, despite no use of sound amplification equipment. These arrests occurred after the NYPD ordered the crowd to disperse and counter-protesters were actively trying to leave. Once again it was clear that the police were there to serve and protect the ultra-right fanatics and private property rather than oppressed and vulnerable communities who are under attack by the far-right.

Police suppression is surging, particularly targeted against abortion clinic defenders and pro-Palestine activists. Previous instances of NYPD violence against Black Lives Matter protesters in 2020 resulted in a series of class action lawsuits that culminated in a settlement last month. However, the minimal reforms included in the agreement do not include mechanisms to really hold cops accountable such as an independent prosecutor paired with a civilian review board that is elected by the community. As New Yorkers demand increased funding for essential services desperately needed by our city’s most vulnerable residents, protesters are being forced into submission by the SRG unit costing taxpayers over $130 million annually, in clear violation of our free speech rights.

The current political climate of rising fascism and police suppression emphasizes the urgent need for a united front of working-class organizations – in which groups with different political perspectives each bring their own banner to march together under a common cause, such as reproductive justice. A united and democratically run movement to defend bodily autonomy and fight for reproductive rights is needed now more than ever.

Drop all charges against the arrested protesters! Hands off social justice activists! Defend free speech! Build a united front for reproductive justice!

NYC Mobilization for Reproductive Justice