RALLY: Defend abortion rights! Reinstate Roe v Wade!
That is the name of the rally I attended on Saturday, outside Sydney Town Hall. In the lead up to the event, I thought long and hard about what an appropriate response would be, because no matter how you look at the issue, there is no easy answer. What’s more certain is that apathy isn’t really an answer.
So I went to Officeworks, and bought a laminated sign that you can see in the photo above (deliberately gender-neutral). I’ve long admired the work Diamond Women (DW) does for their clients, in ‘loving them both’, and I wanted to honour the work they do, where approximately 80% of DW’s clients are victims of domestic violence.
I wanted to spark some dialogue at the rally with those who wish to have it with me, for it is not about us, but rather, them. Both of whom deserve the love and care they may not be getting from their family, friends, and the wider society.
So what happened, in chronological order? I got off at the Town Hall light rail station, and ran into someone who looked like NSW Greens Senator David Shoebridge. I wasn’t sure if it was him — he asked if he could have a look at my sign, which was rolled up. I said (lied) to him that I was delivering it to someone else at the rally, and he replied that he just wanted to have a look at it. I’m glad I lied to him, because I wasn’t in the mood for speech enforcement.
It was raining cats and dogs, but it didn’t stop thousands from attending. I stood at the traffic lights of the Queen Victoria Building side of Town Hall, facing both the rally and oncoming vehicular traffic, with my sign. I figured, why not kill two birds with one stone?
As the sole counter-protester at the event (to my knowledge), some approached me asking what the rally is about. Some approached me, including curious protesters, asking what do I mean by ‘love them both’ — they were happy to just have their curiosity satisfied. Some photographers, amateur and professional, took the opportunity to snap. And some felt provoked.
A protester called me a feminazi, ironically. Throughout the event, especially when I followed the crowd during their street march, I was regularly heckled at or given facial/body language showing annoyance or disgust. Again, ironic, given that one of the rally chants I heard included the ‘fetus in the bin’ chant.
An elderly lady started a conversation with me by saying that she thinks Joe Biden isn’t really pro-choice, due to his alleged senility clouding his judgement on the matter. She ended the polite conversation with that she couldn’t understand the point of the rally, because when she was younger, she gave herself an abortion using a vacuum cleaner at home, and that the women attending the rally could just do the same — I wasn’t sure how to respond.
During the street march, a police officer approached me as I stood on the side of the road as the crowd past by my sign, saying that I shouldn’t stand there if I wasn’t part of the crowd. I then seriously asked her where she’d like me to stand. She shrugged, and that was her only response. Hopefully that’s the last pathetic attempt at a Move On Direction I’ll see from NSW Police.
The march ended at Martin Place, and the crowd slowly dispersed — it was raining cats and dogs after all. I stood behind the crowd because behind me was Martin Place train station, so those heading back to the station couldn’t avoid me.
Another police officer at Martin Place asked me which side I was on. I genuinely replied that I was neutral, and he then assured me he just wanted to know if there was going to be a risk of a confrontation. Is it just me, or is my sign confusing (it’s not confusing to me)?
At the end of the rally, two young women who marched, approached me to ask about the sign. I explained the motivation behind the sign, and they seemed to appreciate my explanation, in a way that it appears they’ve never been exposed to such a point of view. Their naivety was telling, but it was also the silver lining of the terrible weekend weather.