Reporter’s notebook: A day to remember
Outside the Supreme Court on the day Roe fell
WASHINGTON—Mackenzie Smethers, a college student from North Carolina, said she hoped for but never expected the end of Roe v. Wade during her lifetime. Now, she can say she was there the day that it happened.
“It was an absolute dream,” said Smethers, who gathered Friday morning outside the U.S. Supreme Court with other members of Students for Life of America. Just after 10 a.m., a leader yelled out that the justices had voted to overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 case that established a constitutional right to abortion. Tears and cheers broke out instantly, Smethers said.
She and several other students estimated the crowd outside the court Friday morning was evenly split between pro-lifers and abortion supporters. Church members, conference attendees, and pro-life activists in the area flocked to the Supreme Court building on First Street Northeast. While SFLA members hugged and celebrated, they also received pushback as protesters also arrived. Anna Young, an SFLA spokesperson and student at Concordia University in Mequon, Wis., said pro-abortion demonstrators played loud music, harassed them, and even tried to hit them. The organization hired its own security detail, which kept the students safe.
“If they advocate for violence in the womb, they’re gonna have violence in the streets as well,” Young said.
By the afternoon, pro-abortion protesters vastly outnumbered scattered pockets of pro-life supporters. In the 90-degree heat, angry crowds chanted, “Abort the Court!” and “The Supreme Court is illegitimate!” Speakers declared that conservative members on the bench had stolen their seats and must be stopped, a sentiment shared earlier by U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y. who joined protesters that morning.
Fourteen-year-old Sirin Toal ditched her last day of the year at a local magnet school to gather with friends outside of the Supreme Court. They drew posters and chanted, “My body, my choice,” with hundreds of other protesters Friday afternoon. She told me she felt like crying when she heard that she might not be allowed an abortion if she lives in a state that does not legalize it.
Pro-aborts used banners, whistles, and obscene screams to try to overpower pro-lifers. One pro-life DJ showed up and played reggae music to try to bring down the temper of the crowds. He was surrounded by people screaming at him to leave, which he did after roughly 30 minutes.
In recent weeks, extremist groups such as Jane’s Revenge attacked crisis pregnancy centers across the country and promised more violence if the Supreme Court overturned Roe. On Friday, snipers took positions on the roof of the Supreme Court, surveying the crowds all day and into the night. Rows of police vehicles blocked off the roads around the court, and units of bike brigades stood by to separate any shouting matches that got too intense. Flyers posted across the district called for a “Night of Rage,” allegedly sponsored by Jane’s Revenge.
One man at Friday’s protest held a sign reading, “If abortions aren’t safe, you aren’t either—Jane’s Revenge.” The man wore a mask and refused to identify himself. “The time for talk is over,” he said. He had attended other similar protests and called the one on Friday afternoon “pretty tame, but we could probably whip this crowd into a frenzy if we wanted to.”
But the threats failed to materialize further on Friday. While some protesters held rallies in Union Square Park and a handful of flag burnings were reported across the city, no coordinated attacks happened. Roughly half a mile from the Supreme Court, a lone police car stood watch in front of the Capitol Hill Pregnancy Center, which had been spray-painted with pro-abortion threats weeks before. But on Friday, the officer guarded only quiet streets.
At 8:30 p.m., a group of protesters marched into the thousands-strong crowd in front of the Supreme Court. The demonstrators in the front of the group held out black umbrellas, dressed in black, and disguised themselves with black face masks. They marched with a banner reading, “You Cannot Control Our Bodies.” The 20-member demonstration marched down First Street and then around the city. Footage gathered from witnesses throughout the night indicated a few scuffles but no major vandalism or attacks either at the court or at the homes of conservative justices in nearby suburbs.
By 10:30 p.m., only a couple of hundred people remained in front of the court, listening to poetry recitations as piano music played somewhere in the distance. They slowly dispersed in different directions, more reflective than raging.
—Leo Briceno contributed to this report.
A happy ending
Nhan Hyunh, 38, fled communism in Vietnam in the 1990s and immigrated to the United States. He and his wife had three children together, but when she became pregnant with a fourth in 2018, she wanted an abortion. Hyunh said he convinced her to carry their baby boy to term when he promised to raise the child. He said he is now a single father but would not have changed his choice. “As a dad, I realize a child is precious and has its own right to life,” he said. “If parents say they’ll do anything for their children, the first thing you do is give life.”
On Friday afternoon, Hyunh raised a pro-life poster that read “Dismember Roe” in front of the Supreme Court after six conservative justices did just that. —C.L.
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