Several hundred demonstrators gathered and marched through downtown Los Angeles on Saturday, channeling anger, frustration and grief as they denounced the Supreme Court’s decision to end a constitutional right to abortion.
In Grand Park — in the heart of downtown’s Civic Center — more than 200 people had assembled by mid-morning, with scores chanting, “My body, my choice,” on the steps of nearby City Hall. Signs waved by protesters declared, “You are only banning safe abortions” and “I am woman watch me vote.”
Through the morning and early afternoon, the crowd grew and hundreds trooped through the city streets, stopping at Crypto.com Arena and L.A. Live before returning to the steps of City Hall.
“I had to literally come down here today because I have nowhere to put my emotion, my fear, my anger, and my sorrow,” said 52-year-old Jennifer Jonassen.
Jonassen said she was on Zoom Friday attending a professional development course when she learned of the court’s decision, which left her in tears. Anger propelled her and others to join Saturday’s protest: “Clearly being submissive and quiet has done nothing,” she said.
The move by the Supreme Court’s conservative majority to overturn the landmark 1973 Roe vs. Wade decision closely followed a leaked draft of the ruling published this spring by Politico. Still, the final ruling shocked and saddened scores across Southern California.
“I felt we were going backwards,” said Therese Zipperman, 33, describing her response to the ruling. “I worried about my future — women’s future.”
Zipperman drove from her residence in Burbank to join demonstrators Saturday in downtown L.A., where women chanted, “Two-four-six-eight, separate the church and state.”
To Zipperman, attendance at the rally was a way to fight back, along with voting and supporting organizations that advocate for abortion rights. Congress, she said, should make abortion legal across the country: “Legal, accessible, and affordable,” calling it “basic healthcare.”
For Jessi Martinez, 22, coming to downtown from her home in Santa Monica was born out of a need to be around like-minded people.
“It gives people hope — hope in numbers,” said Martinez, who marched Saturday with a “1973” sign that she made herself and hung around her neck.
Martinez lamented the influence of religious views on government policies and how lawmakers were imposing their beliefs on the wider citizenry: “Your religion cannot dictate the laws of the country.”
Helen Li, 25, of Virginia, said the reversal of Roe vs. Wade sparked a conversation in her own family about abortion, and on Saturday she carried a sign outside City Hall that read, “My mother had an abortion so that my sister and I could have a right to life.”
“The right to life, in my opinion, doesn’t just mean conception,” Li said. “It also means, after the baby comes out of the womb, do we have enough resources to support this child?”
She said she attended the rally “to find community” and speak to people who have experienced abortion.
“I think bringing these stories to light is important to start discussions, even within families, because they’re kind of taboo,” she said.
Los Angeles police had not made any arrests in connection with the demonstration as of 4:30 p.m., said Officer Norma Eisenman, an LAPD spokesperson. A group had attempted to march on the southbound 101 Freeway but was blocked by officers on the ramp at Broadway.
In the hours after the ruling in Dobbs vs. Jackson Women’s Health Organization was released, thousands of protesters in Southern California took to the streets — in Hollywood, Westwood, West Hollywood, Long Beach, Fullerton, Irvine and across the Inland Empire.
From Friday morning until just before midnight, scores flocked to downtown L.A., rallying in Pershing Square and outside the 1st Street courthouse. Several marched on the 110 Freeway and later, the 101 Freeway, temporarily blocking traffic. By 9 p.m., the Los Angeles Police Department declared an unlawful assembly, with officers in riot gear forming skirmish lines and warning protesters to leave or face arrest.
Times reporters were turned away and not permitted to observe detentions or arrests. One person was arrested after people threw fireworks and other objects at officers near 5th and Main streets, said LAPD Chief Michel Moore. Two officers were injured from the fireworks, and they were released to go home after receiving medical treatment, said Eisenman, the LAPD spokesperson.
The vast majority of protesters were peaceful, but “a much smaller group of individuals took to the streets with the intention of creating chaos and destruction,” Moore told The Times.
The Los Angeles Police Protective League, the union representing LAPD officers, blasted police and city leaders on Saturday for failing to condemn the throwing of fireworks, rocks and bottles at officers.
“The silence is deafening from our so-called community’s leaders,” the union said in a statement. “This type of raw violence on display in Los Angeles and across the nation from dangerous mobs hell-bent on destruction has nothing to do with a woman’s right to choose.”
The rallies on Saturday saw far less of an obvious police presence. As the crowd stepped through the streets, a Times reporter observed a handful of LAPD cruisers trailing behind.
Several attendees said the rally offered a form of catharsis and portended more intensive organizing and activism in the months ahead.
“You have to get active — that’s the only thing we have,” said Maureen Toth, 53, of Studio City. “The right has been very active in what they attempted to do, and they succeeded for the moment. It needs to galvanize and energize people.”