Chicago: Organizing for Refuse Fascism at Defend Abortion Rights Rally and March

January 16, 2017 | Revolution Newspaper |


From a reader:

January 15—Women—young, middle-aged and older—came in groups of twos and threes for the protest against the major annual anti-abortion event in Chicago. When we unfurled the banner, “Abortion On Demand and Without Apology,” two men stepped up and agreed to carry the banner so we could distribute the Call to Action for Refuse Fascism. This bright orange banner was the largest, most striking banner in the march and expressed the outrage and in-your-face mood among the vast majority. Six “NO!” picket signs were carried by women in the crowd. The organizers stressed in their publicity that women should make their own signs, and that’s what many did. Some were very creative, bold, including one from a high school student: “Jesus doesn’t have a dick. So why do you want to stick it in my vagina?” Another woman made a large sign with a red-robed woman’s figure with the words “I’m not your handmaid,” in reference to Margaret Atwood’s book The Handmaid’s Tale that takes place in a nightmarish society where all abortions are banned.

Protesters came in waves until we reached about 500—almost double the year before, even though the organizing effort was much smaller. There were a relative handful of Black people. The crowd was at least 90 percent women, and the majority were under the age of 30. There were a few high school students, who were from a suburban high school. Women were responding to the heightened attacks on women’s right to control our own reproduction and our lives from the Trump/Pence regime, even though the publicity for the march was solely in the context of a protest against the so-called “right to life” anti-woman rally by the Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago. 

Chanting began almost immediately, spirited and getting louder and louder as the antis gathered across the street and our ranks swelled. In the midst of this, two of us were able to distribute almost 500 copies of the Call to Action, with several women taking bundles of 5-10 copies. A middle-aged Black woman and her high school-aged daughter took 25 copies to distribute in a Detroit suburb. Most people were excited to see the title of the Call, “No! In the Name of Humanity, We REFUSE to accept a fascist America.” Women expressed fear at how far back women’s rights to control our bodies and our lives could go under the Trump/Pence regime. Most women I was able to talk with in any depth were more afraid of Pence than Trump. There were several groups of young women from Indiana—where Pence was the governor—who were very vocal about what it’s like to live there, not only the anti-abortion and anti-LGBT laws Pence enacted but also the chilling atmosphere overall.

A lot of people took the Call, said they would read it, and go online, sign up and donate. We encouraged them to post on their Facebook page that they had signed the Call and donated, and encourage friends to do that and join them in the streets this coming weekend.

The rally at the end of the march was spirited and very interesting. Several organizers stressed that we had to take to the streets next weekend. This was a sea change from the organizing meeting I attended in mid-December, when I was the only one who spoke about the attacks on women coming from the Trump/Pence regime and the need to put this annual protest in that context. Every time somone spoke of protesting next weekend, there was a loud cry of approval from the crowd.


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