While those opposed to abortion celebrated the U.S. Supreme Court's announcement that effectively overturned the 49-year-old constitutional right to an abortion set by Roe v. Wade, around 200 people gathered at separate protests against the decision just blocks apart Friday in Akron's Highland Square neighborhood.
While the first rally drew about 100 people to Rich Swirsky Memorial Park in a quiet residential neighborhood a block north of West Market Street, the second kicked off about 2½ hours later a block south on the side of the Highland Square Branch of Akron-Summit County Public Library, where some participants displayed signs to traffic passing through one of the city's busier corridors.
No anti-abortion activists were apparent at or around either event.
Ward 1 Councilwoman Nancy Holland said she organized the 4:30 p.m. rally in her neighborhood after hearing of the court's decision Friday morning.
"Honestly, I started crying," she said, explaining she called a friend.
"I said that literally, I am shaken. I'm in my kitchen and I'm shaken ... and then I got on Facebook. I said if you would like some company, I have a porch, this is a safe space, you can talk and you can breathe, you can vent. Message me for an address."
The invitation evolved into a rally at the park, with participants sharing personal experiences with abortion and accounts of fighting for abortion rights as well as calls to recruit voters to counter the decision.
Elected officials who spoke included state Rep. Tavia Galonski, D-Akron, who offered a tearful personal account.
Summit County Clerk of Courts Sandra Kurt also gave an emotional presentation.
State Rep. Emilia Sykes, D-Akron, a candidate for U.S. Congress, called on those in the crowd to make a commitment to register to vote and register others who would like to effect change. The message was echoed by Traci Person, regional field manager at Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio.
The Rev. Meaghan F. Froehlich, a member of the presiding bishop's staff of the Episcopal Church in the United States, also spoke.
An Akron resident, Froehlich noted the church's presiding bishop, The Most Rev. Michael Curry, stated Friday that "today’s decision institutionalizes inequality because women with access to resources will be able to exercise their moral judgment in ways that women without the same resources will not."
Anger on display at second rally
A different crowd of about 100 people gathered along West Market Street in the heart of Highland Square at 7 p.m.
Maddy Dolezal, a member of the organizing group Serve the People Akron, spoke as cars honked their horns in passing and the sound of bass from a distant band reverberated in the distance.
"First and foremost, restricting abortion does not actually lower the rates of abortion," she said, adding abortion restrictions only lead to restrictions in access to safe abortions.
"There is no pro-life when people are dying ...," she said, adding communities of color, low-income and other marginalized groups will suffer the most.
"This isn't about protecting the unborn. It isn't about life — let's make that crystal (expletive) clear," she said to applause. "What this is about is control. What it's about is oppressing marginalized communities further. What it's about is pushing and progressing traditional Christian values, and what it's about is opening the door to turn back further rights, such as same-sex marriage."
In a flyer, Serve the People urged participants to build mutual aid networks "to get contraception, birth control and other reproductive health services to people who need them," along with "safe state caravans and shelter for people who need abortions."
"Amerikkkan (sic) fascism is shedding its liberal mask. This is part of a long list of direct attacks on the rights and well being of people everywhere, including migrants, Black and Brown people, queer and trans people, the poor, the imprisoned, and the unhoused! The attacks will not stop here!" the group stated.
Individuals at both demonstrations urged people to volunteer to serve as escorts at the NEO Women's Center in Cuyahoga Falls, one of the closest places where abortions are performed in the area.
Eric Marotta can be reached at 330-541-9433, or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @MarottaEric.
This article originally appeared on Akron Beacon Journal: Protesters gather in Akron's Highland Square following abortion ruling