Last night at the Rhode Island State House, in the face of a horrific attack on our rights, local activists gathered together. Our rally’s purpose was to provide community for our people and to dispense information and action steps of how to fight back.
A small group of anti-protesters came to disrupt our event, resorting at one point to physical violence to do so. Arrests were made and charges are being filed. The rally continued, otherwise uninterrupted. We would like to state here that we are so proud and grateful for the people who actively worked to de-escalate and defuse the situation as it unfolded.
We understand that these statements are largely read by the press. We urge each of you to recognize that to focus on the attackers (rather than those inflicted) is to permit the perpetrators and their intentions to dictate the narrative. That being said, we would like to state facts so that perpetrators can be held accountable and the story goes on record.
A small collection of anti-protesters made their presence known at about the halfway point of our rally. A reporter, seemingly connected with them, tried to approach the stage and refused to take direction from a rally organizer about not approaching further. Volunteers from the front of the rally crowd approached to help, including our own Board Member and RI Senate Candidate Jennifer Rourke. Rally organizers, including Jennifer, constantly chanted, both on mic and off, that the aggressively-behaving reporter was “not to be touched” and was “to leave the stage and rally.” The reporter was pressured off stage by the group of volunteers on the mall side of the steps. This is unfortunately when some of the perpetrators escalated their tauntings to violence. This violence included Jennifer Rourke being punched in the head repeatedly by her republican political opponent, an off-duty PPD officer.
We refuse to allow him or the others to become the story. Instead, we present a summary of what Jennifer Rourke chose to speak about during her speech at last night’s rally.
Jennifer Rourke shared with the crowd last night that, as a mixed-race Black woman married to a white man with interracial children, she knows that this SCOTUS decision will compromise the safety of her right to continue to love her husband. Now that Roe and Casey have been overturned, politicians across the country are openly discussing attacking interracial marriage and gay marriage. Jennifer discussed the anger she felt at thinking her children may not be able to love who they want to love, regardless of race or gender.
That is what Jennifer loudly said last night, so that is what we are loudly saying again today. Please say that.
For decades, a well-funded movement has pushed to stack the courts to get to this moment, but what they don’t know is their funding and their fascist fervor is matched by the might of our movement for justice – and we are not going anywhere! Let’s be clear: bad actors at a rally of more than one thousand should NOT overshadow the growing movement rising up at this moment. People should be held accountable for their actions, but not at the expense of the will of the innocent people harmed.
The anger and hate of counter-protestors is NOT more important than the very real threat to healthcare for so many, especially Black, Indigenous and people of color, young people, immigrants and LGBTQ+ people hurt most by this ruling. The story here is the folks at risk to lose abortion rights and the very real threat to marriage equality and contraceptive access. The story here is who is hurt most, and what we all must do to protect them.
Rhode Island came together in 2019 to protect our right to abortion. We have continued to show up to push to get rid of harmful bans and now more than ever we will speak out and show up in solidarity with people around the nation and right here where we will push not just to protect the right, but to make it real.
We demand more, and that includes making sure the story remains focused on delivering justice.
To allow the violence to overshadow the work is another form of violence: silence.
Please include who Jen is and what she said, not just what happened to her.
We thank you for understanding, and thank all of Rhode Island for their continued passion and supportive actions.
The Womxn Project Board of Directors