Abortion-rights march and Harvard grads meet, some full of hope for the future, some with dread
A march of green-clad abortion-rights protesters crossed paths with black-gowned Harvard graduates just after noon Thursday in Harvard Square, part of a national day of action called “Rise Up 4 Abortion Rights.”
The 40 known protests taking place across the country were dominated by green as a reference to the Marea Verde, or “Green Wave” movement for abortion rights in Latin America. As Uruguay, Argentina and Mexico have made strides for women’s health care, organizers said, America is sliding backward – and not just on abortion.
“This is much more about looking at the future that’s coming, that this Supreme Court decision is just a part of a fascist, theocratic future,” said Ryan Hendricks, an organizer of the protest, referring to an expected decision to overturn the Roe v. Wade precedent based on the idea that Americans have a right to privacy.
The regressive wave will wipe away the rights of women, gay and trans people as well as people of color “unless we rise up,” Hendricks said. “We’re not just trying to fend off that decision, but to set up a movement powerful enough to [guarantee] a different future. It’s insane that our body parts and basic rights are about to be hijacked.”
The Harvard Square location was not chosen purposefully to intersect with commencement weekend at Harvard, but because it was simply a good spot for a protest, Hendricks said.
Activists gathered first on Cambridge Common, their ranks filled with students walking out of classes at the nearby Cambridge Rindge and Latin School. After some circling of monuments and chanting, the crowd advanced south to Harvard Square, massing across from the gates to Harvard Yard before looping down Brattle Street and Mount Auburn to head east toward Central Square, then head into Boston. Speakers when the march stopped included Susan Etscovitz of the Bad Old Days Posse – women who had abortions before Roe made them legal.
Most Harvard grads and their families went around, passed by the protest or let it pass them by without acknowledgment. Some people in the square were delighted by the marching, and grinned, cheered and pumped their fists. A lone man by the old Out of Town newsstand gave the marchers the middle finger repeatedly, which just drew louder chanting in his direction.
There was yet a third contingent in Harvard Square that the marchers passed: a few anti-vaxxers with scrawled posters saying Covid was a hoax and venting anger at Jacinda Ardern, the prime minister of New Zealand and principal speaker at Harvard’s 371st commencement exercises. Ardern’s speech shortly afterward urged grads to protect democracy through “genuine debate and dialogue,” according to The Harvard Crimson.
Police took the craziness in stride. Commissioner Christine Elow – who watched the protest mass on the Common before heading with it toward Harvard Square – said there were 30 officers on the scene Thursday, and the abortion-rights marchers weren’t a “major” strain from what police had anticipated for the graduation exercises alone. “We’ll just reroute traffic around it,” Elow said of the march. “It is going to be inconvenient for the cars. Once we get them out, I think it’ll be fine.”
Upward of 300 people participated in the march, according to officers on scene.