Arnold Wilkes, a member of the Madesi Band of the Pit River Tribe, was one of the many men who showed up in Redding on the evening of July 4 in support of human rights.Those rights include women’s access to abortions, he said.
“It was mostly men who overturned Roe v. Wade,” Wilkes explained, discussing why he was at the event, “I’m here to show women that they are not alone, that many men support their right to reproductive healthcare access.” Wilkes was also there to support Tribal sovereignty in light of another recent Supreme Court decision which expanded the power of individual states over federally recognized Tribal nations.
He was one of many who expressed concern Monday night about what other groups’ rights might eventually be affected by the actions of the Supreme Court. That concern is what brought attendee Katie Crum to the event. “I’m here to protest for abortion rights but also the rights of those in the LGBTQ+ community,” Crum told Shasta Scout, “basically for the rights of anyone who is not a straight white cis male … ‘cause America says liberty and justice for all, but … kinda not.”
Amber Middleton, another protestor, agreed, explaining that she’d chosen to celebrate the Fourth of July in this way because the usual celebrations of freedom on the Fourth of July felt “ironic and condescending … given that I don’t have access to basic human rights including my own reproductive rights.”
A recent decision by the Shasta County Board of Supervisors also affected Middleton’s decision to attend the event. “That’s not my Shasta County, not what I represent,” she said, referring to the board’s recent vote against declaring June Pride Month in Shasta County, “and that’s not how I want others to think of the place that I live.”
Wife and husband Jennifer and Troy Justice also attended the July 4 event with their daughter and Jennifer’s mother. The four stood side by side in front of Cypress Avenue, holding signs and cheering as passing motorists honked in support. For Jennifer, coming to the event on America’s Independence Day was a natural response to recent events. “I don’t feel like celebrating a country that’s taking rights away,” she said, explaining that she felt empowered by the event and hoped it would be effective in creating change.
Her husband Troy said he came to protest because he spends a lot of time with “white entitled men” who “don’t get their information from real news sources.” Troy expressed concerns about precedents set by recent Supreme Court decisions and what rights might be threatened in the future in America, including the right to interrracial and LGBTQ+ marriage. He said he felt relieved to have an opportunity to be part of the activism so that the men driving by “don’t just think this is about women complaining.”
“I could not be prouder that he is here,” Jennifer told Shasta Scout, “I think it’s important that he supports me and I think it’s important that he speaks up to men who might not listen to women.”
Amanda Smith also attended the event with her family, including two of her daughters and said this was an appropriate way to spend her July 4 because “Independence Day . . . was about freedom from the same religious persecution that is now being forced on us.”
Safety is her primary motivator for protesting, she said, citing concern about how women’s and girl’s lives across the country may already have been placed in danger due to the new restrictions on abortion. “I cry and feel like a bad parent (since the Roe v Wade decision),” Smith said, “because I feel like I can no longer guarantee (my daughter’s) safety (in this country).”
According to reporting from Vox, it’s not yet clear how new anti-abortion laws triggered in various states since Roe v. Wade was overturned may impact legal access to abortion in the case of ectopic pregnancies. But that lack of clarity could cost women access to lifesaving healthcare, as medical professionals and administrators delay treatment because of the possibility of litigation. Ectopic pregnancies are those in which the fetus begins to develop outside the uterus, often in one of the fallopian tubes, a condition incompatible with fetal survival that also threatens the life of the mother.
Seventy-four year old Judy Champagne said she felt tired and sad as she prepared to attend Monday’s action.
“My grandmother protested to get women the right to vote in 1919,” she explained, “she got kicked out of college for that and I can’t believe that we are still out here to get the right to make our own choices for our own bodies.”
But, Champagne said, finding such a wide spectrum of ages and individuals represented at the event had been unexpectedly joyful and given her new hope for the future. “I’m really thrilled and happy to look around and see all these young people,” she said.
Terry Crary, who attended the event with her boyfriend, agreed that she’s felt discouraged in recent days. “I was doing this fifty years ago,” she said, “trying to get (abortion access) passed. And now I’m out here trying to get it back. It feels like the Handmaid’s Tale,” she said, “we are going backwards.”
But Crary was feeling encouraged as the event wound down, “We’ve had a lot of people honk and give us thumbs up,” she explained, “so I’m feeling kind of hopeful. I think a lot more people are against the overturn than for it and I’m sure those people are going to make their thoughts known in November.”
Monday night’s event was the sixth local protest in support of access to reproductive healthcare in the ten days since Roe v. Wade was overturned. Most at the event who spoke to Shasta Scout were unsure who had organized the event, expressing that they had learned about it through the recently formed Shasta Abortion Coalition’s social media pages, or through friends.
That seemed to please the event organizer, Kamryn Mabee, who sat on the curb towards the end of the evening, taking it all in. “I’m tired,” she said, explaining that she had already attended another protest event in Sacramento in the morning.
Mabee said she organized the July 4 Redding event in support of not just abortion rights, but human rights, including support for those in the LGBTQ+ community and for Juneteenth, a newly federally recognized holiday commemorating when enslaved peoples first learned about the end of legalized enslavement in America.
“This was an opportunity for people to come out here and protest for their freedom,” Mabee explained, saying that she understands those who feel shut down emotionally after the recent Supreme Court decision, but believes that there’s a way for everyone to get involved in fighting back.
Mabee expressed gratitude for those who had gathered the day before to make signs for others to hold at the July 4 event and said she says she hopes people continue to take action, including using their vote to create change, something she’ll be doing for the first time this fall.
“I haven’t been able to vote yet,” Mabee said, “because I’m only seventeen, but I just registered here today to vote in November.”
Annelise Pierce is Shasta Scout’s Editor and a Community Reporter covering government accountability, civic engagement, and local religious and political movements. You can contact her at [email protected]
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