Supreme Court protests erupt after Roe v. Wade ruling in Dobbs

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An emotional crowd gathered outside the Supreme Court on Friday to alternately celebrate and insult the historic overthrow of Roe vs. Wadewith tensions growing between protesters as they absorbed the news that the court had overturned the 50-year-old ruling guaranteeing the constitutional right to abortion.

Dozens of police were present as the crowd swelled to a few hundred and began to coalesce into dueling factions. The scene, following the court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organizationwas a remarkable split-screen that captured the wildly divergent reactions of Americans at a pivotal moment in one of the nation’s most bitter debates. Abortion rights supporters expressed their desperation and outrage – one held a defiant sign reading ‘I will help and encourage abortion’ – as anti-abortion activists were overwhelmed with emotion by a legal victory that had lasted for decades.

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“I can’t believe this is real,” said Lauren Marlowe, 22, an anti-abortion protester who shouted and hugged her friends when the ruling fell. “I just want to hug everyone. … We are now in a post-Roe America.

Anti-abortion activists reacted on June 24 when the court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization was released, overturning Roe. (Video: The Washington Post)

Tanya Matthews, a 26-year-old master’s anthropology student from Charleston, SC, was on her way to the Library of Congress when she heard about the ruling and headed to the Supreme Court. Matthews, who said she had an abortion at 19 and supported abortion rights, was appalled by the crowd of anti-abortion activists, many of whom were young women.

“It feels like a Justin Bieber concert,” Matthews said. “They don’t understand the seriousness of this decision. Just because it’s not legal doesn’t mean it won’t happen. »

She interrupted anti-abortion activist AJ Hurley as he explained why he had come to Washington from Los Angeles.

“And the rapists? Matthews asked, referring to abortion exceptions.

“I think rapists should be executed, but you don’t execute the child for the crimes of the father,” replied Hurley, 38.

Matthews asked how he could be for the death penalty and call himself “pro-life”.

“I hate rapists more than you do,” he said. “I have a degree in biology. You don’t have a degree. »

“You don’t know my degree,” Matthews replied.

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By noon, the clashes had not escalated into violence, authorities said. Officers observed a scene in which equally passionate crowds chanted but did not clash en masse.

Shortly before noon, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (DN.Y.) appeared at the rally and delivered a speech through a megaphone borrowed from abortion-rights supporters.

“It’s not going to be instant gratification,” she said, promising a long fight to rebuild the rights the court revoked on Friday. She left amid an escort of police, who protected her from anti-abortion activists who swarmed her and yelled at her.

Dustin Sternbeck, a spokesperson for DC Police, said the entire department has been activated, meaning all officers are ready to deploy if needed to the protests.

A few miles south, traffic on the Frederick Douglass Memorial Bridge spanning the Anacostia River was halted Friday morning after DC police said a protester climbed to the top of a 70-foot-tall arch.

Police said the protester displayed a flag or banner that read, ‘Don’t step on my womb’. Authorities halted traffic on the bridge as they attempted to get the person off.

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Caroline Flermoen and Kate Spaulding, both 17, had just started their walking tour of Capitol Hill on Friday morning when they heard chanting and swells of music. They immediately knew what the noise meant.

The girls — from Grand Rapids, Michigan, and Boston, respectively — are rising high schoolers and were in Washington for an educational summer program. Their guide had mentioned that a decision on Roe might come during their tour, but to hear it, the girls said, was surreal.

“Goodbye reproductive rights,” Caroline texted her mother at 10:14 a.m.

They joined a few hundred people outside the Supreme Court. When someone offered them bright green stickers that read “Overturn Roe? Surely not!” with an illustration of a crossed out coat hanger, they agreed.

Kate put the sticker on her denim shorts. Caroline affixed it to her white T-shirt, obstructed by a red cord with her dorm key. As she watched the fans cheer, her eyes filled with tears. She knew she would remember this day for the rest of her life, she said.

Stephanie Gross, a 21-year-old student who dances to rap music from a stereo pulled into a train car, will also remember the day.

She believed the court’s decision paved the way for a better future, she said. There were bubbles in the air and champagne spilled on his friends’ arms.

“When I have kids one day, I can say I was there when it happened,” Gross said. “Can you believe it?”

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