On Thursday, protesters wearing green bandannas gathered shortly before noon at Second and East Capitol streets NE before marching — behind a large banner that said “We won’t back down” — a few blocks over to their sit-in site at First Street and Constitution Avenue NE.
“This is about a woman’s right to her own body,” said actress Alysia Reiner, who was among the celebrities and politicians that joined the demonstration. “We need to stand up for bodily autonomy in the face of a government that cares so little about our rights.”
Police directed traffic away from the intersection and started arresting protesters at about 12:30 pm US Capitol police said they arrested 181 people for obstructing the intersection.
Katelyn Leonard, 39, was outside the Supreme Court already with a sign declaring “Keep your ‘God’ out of my uterus” when she decided to join the march. Leonard, a fifth-grade teacher for DC Public Schools, said she was there for her female students. Her eyes welled up when she saw a woman around her mother’s age being arrested.
“Knowing that she and my mother and aunt were protesting 50 years ago and that it’s still going on today,” Leonard said. “If people don’t see the rage … nothing changes.”
Kendra Brooks, an at-large member of the Philadelphia city council, came to protest with her 18-year-old daughter. Brooks, 49, said she was a teen mother and in college when she terminated a pregnancy.
“I would do it again,” said Brooks, who was balancing school and motherhood at the time, while her partner had three children of his own. “Many women have similar stories, but we carry these stories in shame and in secret. In reality, we shouldn’t have to justify why we had an abortion.”
Rep. Judy Chu (D-Calif.), who was also arrested, said in a phone interview with The Washington Post that she is ramping up calls to abolish the Senate filibuster and trying to garner support for her own bill that establishes a federal right to abortion care.
“Every major right we have in this country — voting or women’s rights — came about because of protests,” Chu said. “That is what changed things in America for the better.”
At 1:22 p.m., DC police tweeted that the demonstration had ended and the intersection was reopened to traffic.
Ellie Silverman and Peter Hermann contributed to this report.