ashland.news
July 18, 2024

Pro-choice rally draws supporters — and opponents

An abortion rights protester faces off with an anti-abortion advocate at the “Majority Over MAGA” program in Ashland Sunday afternoon. Ashland.news photo by Bob Palermini
June 24, 2024

Plaza demonstration Sunday afternoon interrupted by counter-protesters

By Art Van Kraft for Ashland.news

A rally to support women’s reproductive rights drew an excited crowd at Ashland Plaza on Sunday afternoon. The gathering was both festive and contentious. The stage and speakers were organized by Oregon District 2 Indivisible, a group that supports women’s rights to abortions — a hotbed topic that also drew anti-abortion protesters from around the county. As guest speakers addressed the crowd, protesters shouted, beat drums and rushed the stage with banners and signs. 

At one point the stage was filled with signs in a standoff. Both camps eventually gave way and allowed the event to continue. Ashland High School student Kate Gaylon used the calm to step onto the stage and, despite some badgering and shouts, address the crowd.

An Ashland high school student spoke to approximately 75 people about her fears for the future at the “Majority over Maga” rally Sunday. Ashland.news photo by Bob Palermini

“Two years ago, the Supreme Court sought to overturn Roe vs Wade and I’m both angry and scared,” Gaylon said.

“I am lucky enough to live here in Oregon, where I still have access to an abortion if I need one. However, as I prepare to enter my senior year of high school, I’m acutely aware of the fact that I go out into the world, too. As this election approaches, my apprehension grows. This is a key election that could very change the course of my life forever, and I can’t even vote in it,” she added. 

Most attendees cheer for the speakers while others wave anti-abortion signs and try to interrupt the rally with their own sound systems. Ashland.news photo by Bob Palermini

One counter-protester who gave his name as John, from Grants Pass, held a particularly large sign with images of abortions that he had held up on the stage. He said he was following the Bible and had a duty to fight against evil. He recited a litany verse that he said, gave him the right to fight against abortions.  He was joined by a woman who made it her duty to sit next to the stage and tirelessly beat a drum to drown out the speakers. 

Back on stage, ORD2 Indivisible’s Leader Terrie Martin explained to the crowd the importance of elections and how complacence can become a death sentence for personal rights. “Thanks to the Supreme Court, they have now banned abortion in 21 states,” Martin said.

Candidates Denise Krause, who is running for a seat on the Jackson County Commission, and Dan Ruby, who is running for Congressional District 2 seat, attended the rally at the Ashland Plaza Sunday. Ashland.news photo by Bob Palermini

Martin’s message exemplified the fear that MAGA Republicans want to use the criminal justice system to punish women and health care providers.

A protestor who wished to remain anonymous said, “The Trump MAGA Republicans are coming for us in 2025 and they are not hiding their plans.” 

The crowd cheers for a speaker at the rally marking two years since the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization Supreme Court decision overturned Roe v. Wade and federal constitutional protections for abortion. Ashland.news photo by Bob Palermini

Oregon State Representative Pam Marsh was there as spectator. She said she was standing up once again for reproductive rights.  

“People in Oregon are lucky, they have a state that’s been strong on leadership. In 2017 we passed those rights and really led the nation, and were looking at a constitutional amendment that enshrines the rights in the constitution. However, we are only one state and there are states and legislatures across the country that are doing their very best to tear down access to abortion,” Marsh said. 

Jackson County For All leader Denise Krause stood watching the event unfold.

An abortion rights protester faces off with an anti-abortion advocate at the “Majority Over MAGA” rally at the Ashland Plaza Sunday. Ashland.news photo by Bob Palermini

“I think were incredibly under attack,” she said. “Women are going to have to mobilize and fight back on the issues that determine reproductive rights. I think we’re going to win, I mean it’s a winning issue. Reproductive rights have been fought for so many times before. The threat comes from the extreme right and fear tactics, Krause said.

“The rabble rousing is not unexpected unfortunately. The solution is for people to talk to each other like human beings,” she added. “It’s really important for us to do that.”

Art Van Kraft is an artist living in Ashland and a former broadcast journalist and news director of a Los Angeles-area National Public Radio affiliate. Email him at artukraft@msn.com.

Shortly after the “Project 2024: Majority Over MAGA” rally began, counter-protestors arrived to share their views and disrupt the rally. Ashland.news photo by Bob Palermini
Sign battles take place as Roe proponents and opponents fight for space while a speaker is introduced at the “Weekend of Action — Majority Over MAGA” rally at the Ashland Plaza Sunday afternoon. Ashland.news photo by Bob Palermini

Related stories:

Ashlanders react to U.S. Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade (June 25, 2022)

Brown, state and U.S. lawmakers in Oregon widely condemn U.S. Supreme Court decision (June 24, 2022)

Ashland ‘Bans Off Our Bodies’ rally draws thousands (May 15, 2022)

Picture of Bert Etling

Bert Etling

Bert Etling is the executive editor of Ashland.news. Email him at betling@ashland.news.

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