Standing on the steps of the Suffolk County Supreme Court building Riverhead, amid a crowd that had swelled to several hundred Wednesday, Candace Alexandra Hall of Greenport spoke about the gravity of the moment facing the country.
“This is vital to all of us,” she said. “This is not just a woman’s issue. This is a health issue for everyone.”
Ms. Hall, who ran for Southold Town Clerk in last year’s election, served as emcee for the Rally for Reproductive Freedom, the latest local protest following the U.S. Supreme Court decision Friday to overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade case that had provided federal Constitutional protection for a woman’s right to abortion for nearly 50 years.
The rally, which had been postponed from Monday due to inclement weather, drew a large turnout Wednesday and was organized by the Democratic committees of the five East End towns.
Protesters lined the steps of the county court building and chanted phrases “my body, my choice,” “my rights now,” and more. Many also held signs reading “Abortion is health care,” “Keep your laws off my body,” “It’s human rights for ALL not human rights for some,” and more.
The Supreme Court’s decision means states can decide whether abortion can be legal. Abortion care remains legal in New York, but according to Politico, abortion will soon be illegal in 16 states due to “trigger laws.”
The rally spanned nearly two hours. As the event began, Riverhead Town police urged the demonstrators to remain on the sidewalk. But the crowd quickly overwhelmed the area, and people spilled out onto Court Street, forcing police to shut down the road.
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Photos by Tara Smith
Many local government officials spoke during the rally, including former Riverhead councilwoman Catherine Kent, Southold Town Democratic Committee vice chair Sandra Benedetto, Southold Democratic Committee chair Kathryn Casey Quigley, Suffolk County Legislator Bridget Fleming (D-Noyac) and several others.
Many of the speakers shared personal and emotional experiences with abortion. They also uplifted and energized the crowd to fight to get Roe v. Wade codified into law and fight for other legislations to secure rights for women, minorities, members of the LGBTQ community and more.
“On the other side of this unravelling is opportunity,” said Anna Skrenta, East Hampton Democratic Committee vice chair. “Let’s swap out our despair for defiance.”
Ms. Fleming, who is running for Congress in the 1st Congressional District, reminded the crowd that demonstrations were happening across the country.
“Don’t lose heart,” she said. “It’s hard, but feel the energy we created here and this is happening all across the United States … we will reclaim American patriotism.”
Skyler Johnson, who is running for New York State Senate District 1, added: “We are going to make sure that New York State is a safe haven for anyone seeking access to reproductive care.”
Many of the officials who spoke urged participants to remain active in elections, especially those that are local.
“Vote as if your life depends on it, because it does,” Southampton Town Councilman John Bouvier said.