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Protests across the country to defend women's rights

Nationwide demonstrations on Women's Equality Day

September 11, 2012

Below are reports from the Aug. 26 National Day of Action called by Women Organized to Resist and Defend. The ANSWER Coalition actively supported this call for demonstrations to defend women’s rights.

WORD

Watch slideshow of Aug. 26 actions from across the country

On Sunday, August 26, women and supporters took to the streets from coast to coast on Women's Equality Day as part of a new fight-back movement against the assault on women's rights. Protests took place in New York City and New Paltz, N.Y.; Los Angeles and San Francisco, Calif.; Chicago, Ill.; Denver, Colo.; Lexington, Ky.; Milwaukee, Wis.; and several other cities.

While the RNC and DNC convening and concocting new ways to attack women's rights, a new generation of feminist organizers are mobilizing in response. WORD stands for full reproductive rights now, defense of women in the workplace, an end to the budget cuts, and full equality and respect now.

Aug. 26 is only our first step in building a new grassroots feminist organization that can push back the wave of right-wing attacks on women's rights. Be a part of this movement by making an urgently needed donationsigning up to volunteer and sharing the reports below via email, Facebook, Twitter and other social networks.

Below is a round-up of some of the actions around the country:

New Paltz, N.Y.


New Paltz rally organizer Donna Goodman leads 300 demonstrators in march through New Paltz business district.

Hundreds of people attended a rally organized in response to the National Call to Action initiated by WORD. Following the rally, participants marched with signs through the town's crowded business district chanting such slogans as "When Women's rights are under attack, what do we do? Stand up, fight back!"

The Peace Park rally was organized by the Hudson Valley Activist Newsletter and the group Peace and Social Progress Now, and had endorsements from some 15 local groups. Molly Madden, a 19-year-old freshman student who first arrived in town three days earlier from Buffalo told a local newspaper that she "enjoyed the speakers, the rally and the message. I've never been to anything like this."

Eight speakers, all activist women from the region, addressed the rally. The main speaker was Donna Goodman, a vice president of the AFL-CIO's Hudson Valley Area Labor Federation and an editor of the Activist Newsletter, who was the chief organizer the rally.

Noting that "women have made good progress in America in the last 200 years," Goodman declared: "Every victory was the product of an intense, organized, independent struggle waged by women and whatever male allies were willing to join with them …

“We cannot rely on the two-party system to do the job for us. We ourselves must do the job through our own struggle as we have done before. We need a revival of an independent, progressive, activist women's movement in America to protect our existing rights and to extend those rights."

Other speakers included: Beth Soto, executive director of the AFL-CIO's Hudson Valley Area Labor Federation. Elizabeth Gross, founder of New Paltz Feminist Collective. Barbara Upton founder of New Paltz Women in Black. Joanne Myers, Marist College professor and vice president of the Hudson Valley LGBTQ Center. Monica Miranda, president of the Hispanic Coalition of New York. Ariana Basco, a New Paltz Village Board Trustee and co-chair of the Environmental Task Force. Music was provided by progressive women singers known as The Mahina Movement.

Los Angeles

WORD Los Angeles Aug. 26 march

In Los Angeles, several hundred women and their allies took over the streets of Hollywood under a banner that read “Defend women’s rights! We won’t go back! We will fight back!” Activists caravanned from Long Beach, San Diego, the Coachella Valley and all over Southern California to be a part of this important action.

The protest began with a spirited rally where a variety of speakers addressed the obstacles that face women and their families in California. Students, child care workers, immigrant rights activists, hotel workers and others spoke out about the need to build a movement for equality for all women. The rally included representatives from Destination LA – a campaign for a living wage for tourist-industry workers who are majority women, AF3IRM, ANSWER LA, The Topanga Peace Alliance, KmB Pro-People Youth, Occupy Los Angeles Men’s Circle in Support of Smashing Patriarchy, and more.

The rally was followed by a spirited march up the bustling Hollywood Boulevard. Many along the sidewalks cheered as the marchers passed, chanting “Anti-choice men have got to go – when you get pregnant, let us know!” 

The march ended at Grauman's Chinese Theater, a busy tourist area, where many were able to see the march and the hundreds who came out to stand up for women’s rights that day. During the closing speak-out, WORD LA organizer Sarah Lee Samonte addressed the crowd, saying: “I am here to make change for my daughter and for the future. I’m here to make sure that she stays strong with every step she takes and fights back against the war on women! If I can change things for her today, she will have a better tomorrow!” Many speakers agreed with Samonte and signed up with WORD to continue the struggle in the days to come.

San Francisco

word sf march 2

"I have cousins, my mother, a baby sister and ... I want them to get what they want," were the words of fifth-grade student Nur, interrupted as he started crying during the middle of his sentence explaining why he was out in the streets with his family to defend women's rights.

Approximately 250 people gathered at the 24th and Mission in San Francisco's Mission District to fight back against the ongoing right-wing attacks on the rights of women. As the crowd marched down 24th to Potrero Del Sol Park, the energetic crowd filled the air with chants calling: “No means no and nothing less. How we dress does not mean ‘yes’!” and “Se ve se siente! Mujeres estan presentes!” People all along the street were coming out to check out the march, joining in with chanting, and eagerly asking for flyers.

Many speakers addressed the attacks against women and why they were marching. Issues as seemingly diverse as cuts to education, unemployment, health care access, unequal pay, war, and racist immigration laws were all woven together into a big-picture understanding of the many issues that affect women and need to combated. As one speaker said: "We are here today to have our voices heard. We are here building a movement. A movement of women, and men, ready to fight back and say: 'Enough is enough! We won't go back!'"

Supporters, speakers and endorsers included: WORD San Francisco and Sacramento, Oceana High School Progressive Student Union, ANSWER SF, Slutwalk SF, World Can’t Wait, AF3IRM San Francisco, CODE PINK, Radical Women, Sisters’ United Front for Survival and OccupySF.

New York City

New York demonstration

NYC’s day of action in midtown, which drew over 150 women and allies, began with a rally at the News Corporation building to denounce their media coverage that continuously stigmatizes women through news sources such as The New York Post and Fox News. Speakers there included the American-Iranian Friendship Committee.

As protesters marched through the busy crowds of Times Square, many bystanders showed solidarity by signing the WORD petition demanding that Sen. Todd Akin resign and joining in the chants. The next stop was Free Abortion Alternatives.

Chanting down the street, protesters stopped next to an army recruitment center and a police precinct. A speaker for the ANSWER Coalition condemned the sexual harassment and abuse women in the military experience, as well as the sexual exploitation of women in U.S.-occupied lands abroad.  At the NYPD Precinct, a Party for Socialism and Liberation representative spoke about how the police terrorize and abuse the most oppressed sectors of the working class, which elicited positive responses from spectators.   

Outside Planned Parenthood, a Revolutionary Fitness representative verbalized the importance of women having affordable access to healthcare and how we should stand in support of this organization, which is getting attacked. Our last stop, the Post Office, resulted in a culminating finale to the march where representatives of DAMAYAN Migrant Workers Association and African Ancestral Lesbians United for Social Change (AALUSC) shared solidarity statements that united the women’s struggle with that of migrant workers and the LGBT community.

Chicago

On Sunday, Aug. 26, women and their allies came from all over the Chicago area as well as from northern Indiana to march for women’s rights. Despite a soaking rain that lasted all day, the conditions did not stop us from marching and chanting through the streets of downtown Chicago. Onlookers gave us thumbs up and cheered as we loudly chanted, “What do we want? Women’s rights! When do we want them? Now!”

Several groups took part in the demonstration, including WORD, Third Wave Feminism and Occupy Chicago.

The march ended with a lively rally next to the notoriously anti-union Congress Hotel. Ymelda Viramontes, an organizer with WORD spoke, saying: “If history has taught us anything it is that we need to struggle for our rights independently of the politicians. Let’s stand together and build a new fightback movement that can liberate women and all oppressed people once and for all!”

Additional reports and photographs will be posted at DefendWomensRights.org. Submit yours by emailing info@defendwomensrights.org.

The Aug. 26 demonstrations were a success thanks to the efforts of tireless volunteers and supporters like you. This National Day of Action is only the beginning. We are committed to the work of building a new movement to protect and expand women's rights -- but we need your help. Please make an urgently needed donation today so that we can continue this critical work.

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