Occupy World: The Dwindling Rights of American Women
On Sunday, August 26, women and supporters took to the streets from coast to coast on Women’s Equality Day as part of a new fight-back movement against the assault on women’s rights. Protests took place in New York City and New Paltz, N.Y.; Los Angeles and San Francisco, Calif.; Chicago, Ill.; Denver, Colo.; Lexington, Ky.; Milwaukee, Wis.; and several other cities.While the RNC and DNC convening and concocting new ways to attack women’s rights, a new generation of feminist organizers are mobilizing in response. WORD stands for full reproductive rights now, defense of women in the workplace, an end to the budget cuts, and full equality and respect now.
In Los Angeles, several hundred women and their allies took over the streets of Hollywood under a banner that read “Defend women’s rights! We won’t go back! We will fight back!” Activists caravanned from Long Beach, San Diego, the Coachella Valley and all over Southern California to be a part of this important action.
The protest began with a spirited rally where a variety of speakers addressed the obstacles that face women and their families in California. Students, child care workers, immigrant rights activists, hotel workers and others spoke out about the need to build a movement for equality for all women. The rally included representatives from Destination LA – a campaign for a living wage for tourist-industry workers who are majority women, AF3IRM, ANSWER LA, The Topanga Peace Alliance, KmB Pro-People Youth, Occupy Los Angeles Men’s Circle in Support of Smashing Patriarchy, and more.
The rally was followed by a spirited march up the bustling Hollywood Boulevard. Many along the sidewalks cheered as the marchers passed, chanting “Anti-choice men have got to go – when you get pregnant, let us know!”
The march ended at Grauman’s Chinese Theater, a busy tourist area, where many were able to see the march and the hundreds who came out to stand up for women’s rights that day. During the closing speak-out, WORD LA organizer Sarah Lee Samonte addressed the crowd, saying: “I am here to make change for my daughter and for the future. I’m here to make sure that she stays strong with every step she takes and fights back against the war on women! If I can change things for her today, she will have a better tomorrow!” Many speakers agreed with Samonte and signed up with WORD to continue the struggle in the days to come.
“I have cousins, my mother, a baby sister and … I want them to get what they want,” were the words of fifth-grade student Nur, interrupted as he started crying during the middle of his sentence explaining why he was out in the streets with his family to defend women’s rights.
Approximately 250 people gathered at the 24th and Mission in San Francisco’s Mission District to fight back against the ongoing right-wing attacks on the rights of women. As the crowd marched down 24th to Potrero Del Sol Park, the energetic crowd filled the air with chants calling: “No means no and nothing less. How we dress does not mean ‘yes’!” and “Se ve se siente! Mujeres estan presentes!” People all along the street were coming out to check out the march, joining in with chanting, and eagerly asking for flyers.
Many speakers addressed the attacks against women and why they were marching. Issues as seemingly diverse as cuts to education, unemployment, health care access, unequal pay, war, and racist immigration laws were all woven together into a big-picture understanding of the many issues that affect women and need to combated. As one speaker said: “We are here today to have our voices heard. We are here building a movement. A movement of women, and men, ready to fight back and say: ‘Enough is enough! We won’t go back!'”
Supporters, speakers and endorsers included: WORD San Francisco and Sacramento, Oceana High School Progressive Student Union, ANSWER SF, Slutwalk SF, World Can’t Wait, AF3IRM San Francisco, CODE PINK, Radical Women, Sisters’ United Front for Survival and OccupySF.
New York City
NYC’s day of action in midtown, which drew over 150 women and allies, began with a rally at the News Corporation building to denounce their media coverage that continuously stigmatizes women through news sources such as The New York Post and Fox News. Speakers there included the American-Iranian Friendship Committee.
As protesters marched through the busy crowds of Times Square, many bystanders showed solidarity by signing the WORD petition demanding that Sen. Todd Akin resign and joining in the chants. The next stop was Free Abortion Alternatives.
Chanting down the street, protesters stopped next to an army recruitment center and a police precinct. A speaker for the ANSWER Coalition condemned the sexual harassment and abuse women in the military experience, as well as the sexual exploitation of women in U.S.-occupied lands abroad. At the NYPD Precinct, a Party for Socialism and Liberation representative spoke about how the police terrorize and abuse the most oppressed sectors of the working class, which elicited positive responses from spectators.
Outside Planned Parenthood, a Revolutionary Fitness representative verbalized the importance of women having affordable access to healthcare and how we should stand in support of this organization, which is getting attacked. Our last stop, the Post Office, resulted in a culminating finale to the march where representatives of DAMAYAN Migrant Workers Association and African Ancestral Lesbians United for Social Change (AALUSC) shared solidarity statements that united the women’s struggle with that of migrant workers and the LGBT community.
On Sunday, Aug. 26, women and their allies came from all over the Chicago area as well as from northern Indiana to march for women’s rights. Despite a soaking rain that lasted all day, the conditions did not stop us from marching and chanting through the streets of downtown Chicago. Onlookers gave us thumbs up and cheered as we loudly chanted, “What do we want? Women’s rights! When do we want them? Now!”
Several groups took part in the demonstration, including WORD, Third Wave Feminism and Occupy Chicago.
The march ended with a lively rally next to the notoriously anti-union Congress Hotel. Ymelda Viramontes, an organizer with WORD spoke, saying: “If history has taught us anything it is that we need to struggle for our rights independently of the politicians. Let’s stand together and build a new fightback movement that can liberate women and all oppressed people once and for all!”