About 1,500 people filled the courtyard at One City Plaza in Greenville on Saturday, chanting and rallying in protest of the Supreme Court ruling that ended Americans’ constitutional right to abortion.
The call and response of passionate women and their allies rang beyond the corner of North Main and East Coffee streets throughout the afternoon.
“My body!” a woman yelled through a speakerphone.
“My choice!” the crowd chanted in response.
After 1 p.m., many people continued to occupy the plaza after the event was permitted, according to an email from the Greenville police department.
One person was arrested after multiple warnings were issued about their interference with roadway traffic, and five more people were taken into custody for charges including disorderly conduct, interfering with police and resisting arrest, police said.
A video that was shared on Twitter appeared to show Greenville police using force in the detainments.
The Greenville News has requested incident reports from the arrests.
The people united from different backgrounds to show solidarity as a much smaller, opposing group sung across the street and cars honked in passing.
June Freeman-Baswell, 73, a member of the local Democratic “Tell Them Tuesday” demonstrators, said she helped organize Saturday’s protest because it needed to be done and she didn’t see anyone else doing it.
She said she recalls when Roe vs. Wade was established, and she said she remembers women being ostracized and criminalized for personal decisions they made in the 1960s and ’70s.
South Carolina lawmakers are expecting a fight this summer as they move forward with plans to outlaw abortion in the wake. Many of the state’s elected leaders celebrated the Supreme Court’s decision as a victory for the protection of life.
Most of the crowd in downtown Greenville Saturday denounced the decision as a violation of personal rights and a threat to women’s healthcare.
“People need to know things can go wrong,” 53-year-old Melinda Menzer said after speaking to the crowd on her experience of needing to have an emergency abortion during a pregnancy.
Menzer held a sign that read “Don’t tread on me” with a rattlesnake formed in the shape of a uterus.
“This decision endangers our human rights,” Menzer said. “The right to control and protect your body is an inalienable right.”
Menzer plans to continue her advocacy for women’s and abortion rights by training to become an elections poll worker.
“The next step is to vote and get involved,” Menzer said. “This is really about our lives.”
Greenville’s Emily Barnett, 27, said the Supreme Court’s decision and the posture of the South Carolina Legislature “makes sex a life or death decision.”
Barnett is a business analyst who is career-focused and said she’s always known that she does not want to have children.
“Support the right to choose,” she said, “no matter what.”
Monika Herr, 46, of Greenville, said she and her husband attempted to foster a child in 2015 after she almost died during a pregnancy. She said they went through the formality of submitting fingerprints to the South Carolina Department of Social Services to be legal guardians of a 4 year old and ultimately became exhausted by the process.
“We didn’t have the stamina to deal with the chaotic system,” Herr said. “We’re failing a lot of needy children right now, so how can we force more women to have more babies?”
She held a sign larger than Greenville’s picketing ordinance allowed, and police asked her to take it to her car. She folded it and kept chanting in-support of the cause for American abortion rights.
“This law only hurts poor women who don’t have the resources,” Herr said. “This is ultimately a war on poor women.”
“I want people to get out and vote, every election,” said Freeman-Baswell.
She is working alongside the local group Citizens Organized for Voter Engagement and helps young Black and Hispanic women reach the polls on election day.
A.J. Jackson is a reporter for the Independent Mail. Contact him by email at email@example.com with story ideas and leads, also follow him on Twitter @AJhappened