The rally went great! I would estimate very conservatively 150 supporters came out. Planned Parenthood wrote that there were at least 150 as well. It was hard to tell because so many just came for a little while, and then left. There were few that were there at 4:30 still there by about 5:15, but at no point after 5:00 were there fewer than about 100. I was very pleased with that.
Operation Rescue's "truth truck" was parked in front of Planned Parenthood all morning, and antagonising clinic staff and patients as usual, but for some reason, they left just before 3:00, and never came back. I showed up right at 3:00 to help set up, and thus never actually saw them.
Right next to us, on the side-walk in front of Planned Parenthood Surgical Center, there was exactly one anti-choicer, a very old man wearing a sandwich sign that said on both sides, "You can't be both Catholic and pro-choice." He left at about 4:15, by which point we probably already had about 50 people there. I'm sure he got discouraged at that point. He would have looked very stupid next to that many pro-choicers.
Also, unfortunately, Henry "Bud" Shaver, Operation Rescue's top missionary in New Mexico, who is also quite high in the whole organization, and whose blogs regularly appear on the Survivor's web site, showed up at the rally, but not to protest. He came, and pretended to be one of us. He came up to one of my personal friends, and asked, "So, you guys are out here to protest Operation Resue?" She said, "yeah!", and he said to her, "right on!", and gave her a double thumbs-up. He walked all through are crowd, acting like us, while snapping pictures of everyone there. He was recognized within ten minutes, but by that time, he had all the up close pictures he wanted, and left on his own. That was a little disturbing.
There was some media coverage. One of our only three serious local tv news stations was there with their camera's set up, as were reporters for two different newspapers, and a reporter for a local radio show. I was interviewed twice, and asked to go on a radio talk show soon.
My friends and I brought two video cameras rolling throughout the rally. One was set up on a tripod immediately in front of the microphone, and used to film all of the speaking. Then, after I and the other speakers were finished, one of my friends detached it from the tripod, and walked around filming all of our people. The other camera was set up discretely on the roof of my truck a short distance away, with the entire parking lot in its field of view. Also, Planned Parenthood's director of security walked around filming with her personal video camera and taking still pictures a good chunk of the time. There is plenty to see. Find photos on Facebook.
Thanks so much Jenny, for the introduction, and for the use of your property for this rally. Wow, this is really great! I'm so glad all of you came out here today to join us. I have never attempted any real public activism before, and I had no idea what to expect. Frankly, I was sort of afraid I'd mess things up. This really is a truly amazing result, considering how hopelessly unqualified I am to be doing this. I am honored to be speaking to all of you who care about this issue.
You know, on the day Operation Rescue sent out an email newsletter calling Albuquerque the nation's “abortion capital”, and announcing that they would be coming here, I knew I had to do something about it. This, being up here speaking to you, was almost inconceivable to me then. But from that day, when I made my first few phone calls to my friends, asking if they would join me in trying to do something, right up to this point, right now, virtually everyone I have talked to about this has asked me the same question: “why does an 18 year old guy, barely out of high school, even want to touch this?” I'd like to tell you all why.
I could list reasons why this issue matters all day, but what has kept me working along for the last month boils down to two things; my extremely strong desire for social justice, and my understanding that society must run on reason and truth.
I have done quite a bit of reading on the subject of abortion, and I think I know both sides of the debate pretty well. I could not be any more firmly in the pro-choice camp, but that isn't what I am going to talk about here. I would encourage everyone, no matter what conclusions they come to about abortion, to live by what they think is right. I will never object to anyone, on any side of any issue persuading others to join them using logic and reason. When we face a dividing issue, it is everyone on both sides logically persuading that leads society to acceptable conclusions. Only when people of differing beliefs engage in civilized public discussion is the best interest of society served. No one who is confident that they are right about something ever needs to halt discussion, and silence their opponents, and I am no exception.
Unfortunately, what we have here is a case in which logical and rational debate is missing. After doing a great deal of research on Operation Rescue, I found not one case in which they ever tried to change someone's mind about abortion using civil discourse. They skip directly to the use of force and intimidation. For years, the entire focus of the organization was conducting their so-called “rescues”, in which gangs of their members would blockade abortion clinic doors for hours, or even days. They intimidate the smallest difference of opinion into silence with unending harassment and scare tactics. When those kinds of tactics are used, it almost doesn't matter which side is right. Having the truth on your side is no longer a guarantee of victory, or even having a voice. These tactics cheat the only legitimate process of inquiry society has; intelligent debate.
Like so many tyrants, dictators, and bullies before him, Troy Newman has replaced reason with fear, and intellect with force. Such tactics halt all hope of progress on an issue for an entire society, and are never justified, no matter what the cause. These tactics make him nothing more than an over-grown playground bully. When a small, nerdy kid tells a bigger kid “it's my lunch money”, the big bully doesn't respond with an argument for why they have a right to it, they just take it. Troy Newman does the same thing, but in an immeasurably more terrible way. He comes not for someone else's lunch money, but for control of their body, their mind, and their beliefs. Women, declaring their lawful human rights, have said to big bully Troy and Operation Rescue “these are our beliefs, and our bodies.” He responds to that only with an ultimatum; “give them to me.” Now he is moving his tactics, his violence, and his intolerance into our community.
Many of you are probably still asking why an 18 year old male cares. He isn't taking my body. I care because I know how I would feel if he were targeting me. If Troy Newman demanded I save every product of my reproductive system, demanded that I save every sperm cell I ever produce, and used fear and terror to force me into submission, I would never want my female friends to walk away from me saying, “I don't make sperm, so it's none of my business.” I would want the women who care about me to stand beside me, and defend me. So, in observance of the golden rule, and out of duty, and moral obligation to all the women who have ever been there for me, not to mention their brave doctors, who give them their rightful choice, I stand here to help defend against an unimaginably oppressive group, which says to women “do as we say, or we will make you suffer.”
This rally is not a just a protest, but an act of defiance. We are not here to say that women own their bodies. Troy Newman and his ilk have heard that a million times, from voices louder than all of ours put together. We are here to do what everyone who faces such oppression must eventually do. Stand up; refuse to be bullied.
One of the things New Mexico is known for is it's cultural variety, it's historic blending of beliefs and ethnicities. We in the Albuquerque area have a long history of finding a way to get along, to ultimately respect those different from ourselves. We should be proud of that heritage. We must not let Operation Rescue divide us, destroy our tolerance, and bring their hateful tactics to our state.
I ask you all, no matter your age, or experience, to join us in saying, as loudly as possible, that the community of Albuquerque stands for human rights, women's rights, and for the brave doctors who offer personal options in health care.