Abortion rights march fills Romare Bearden Park in uptown Charlotte
Abortion rights supporters rallied in uptown Charlotte's Romare Bearden Park on Sunday, hoisting signs and bellowing chants condemning the U.S. Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.
Hundreds gathered in the park ahead of the protest's scheduled start at 7 p.m., and the march filled about three city blocks once it began as chants of "My body! My choice!" and "Post-Roe, hell no!" echoed off nearby buildings.
The protest was held on the eve of the Fourth of July holiday, and many in the crowd said they felt disillusioned with the state of the country this year.
"This is a day of freedom, but we are not free," said Pierdae Kpaeyeh, a public high school teacher who was marching with a friend. "If we were free, we could celebrate, but women are not free."
That sentiment was echoed by Joann Vega, a retired school counselor who had driven from Asheville to take part in the protest.
"It is a shame that we are celebrating the Fourth of July during days in which women are not free. We are not free. We are not feeling free today," Vega said.
The demonstration was organized by Hannah Dyer of Mooresville, who said she planned and executed the protest with the help of some friends. Dyer said she had never organized a major protest before but felt galvanized to take action following the Supreme Court's decision last month.
"I hope this event sends a message that we are not going to stay silent. We are not going to back down, and we are not going to let our human rights be taken away from us and from our peers," Dyer said.
Also at Sunday's protest was Maddie Laurie, who held a bright pink sign reading "My Body, My Choice." Laurie also attended the protest with a friend and said she was counting on Democrats like Gov. Roy Cooper to keep abortion legal in North Carolina.
"Here in North Carolina, there's still hope and we still have an opportunity to be a safe place. I have a lot of friends and family in Georgia, and they need a place, so we need to make sure that our state stays safe," Laurie said.
Republicans in the North Carolina General Assembly have said they plan to push for more restrictions on abortion next year, although Cooper has said will veto any attempts to restrict abortion access, and Republicans do not have enough votes in the General Assembly to override a governor's veto.
Republican leaders are also pushing Democratic Attorney General Josh Stein to begin enforcing a 20-week ban on abortions in North Carolina that was previously declared unconstitutional under Roe v. Wade. Stein has said his office is reviewing the request.
State data from 2020 has shown only 48 North Carolina residents had abortions at 21 weeks or later — or less than one percent of all residents who had abortions that year.
Sunday's protest remained largely peaceful, although heated exchanges took place between the protesters and a small number of counter-protesters who attended holding "Jesus Saves" signs.
As the protest wrapped up, CMPD Lt. Dave Miller told reporters there had been no incidents and the protest had been peaceful.
Organizers said they planned to hold another protest at Romare Bearden Park on Monday, July 4, at 11 a.m.