On Friday evening, local abortion advocates gathered in St. Petersburg following the U.S. Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, the case that protected abortions within the first trimester under the constitution.
The controversial ruling spawned two separate back-to-back protests. First, the Women's Advocacy Movement of Pinellas
(WAMP) organized a "Bans off our Bodies" rally at in North Straub Park, which was then followed by the Party for Socialism and Liberation
(PSL) rally less than a mile away on the steps of St. Petersburg's City Hall.
"We were expecting this, but it's still disheartening," co-founder of WAMP and rally organizer Cheyenne Cheile told Creative Loafing Tampa Bay.
By 5 p.m., a crowd had formed at North Straub where performers sang songs like "I Will Survive" by Gloria Gayner and speakers shared their anger, grief and personal testimonies in relation to abortion advocacy.
Elected officials like congressman and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist, St. Petersburg Mayor Ken Welch and Florida House member Rep. Michele Rayner-Goolsby attended the rally.
Rayner-Goolsby, the first openly queer Black woman to serve in the Florida Legislature, was the rally's first featured speaker.
"We have an election coming up... We've got to make sure that we have folks that align with our beliefs," Rayner-Goolsby said as the rally's opening speaker. "If we don't get serious about making sure our people are protected, we're not just going to stop at abortion — it's going to be gay marriage, it's going to be interracial marriage, it's going to be contraceptives, it's going to be every right that we thought that we had."
"We are in a Stonewall moment," she added.
Piggybacking off of Rayner-Goolsby's sentiment, many of the speakers who followed emphasized the importance of voting for officials who promise to protect reproductive rights — particularly in Florida, where Gov. Ron DeSantis just signed that all abortions after 15 weeks are to be outlawed starting July 1.
As storm clouds rolled in at 6:30 p.m., a crowd gathered on and around the steps of City Hall for PSL Tampa Bay's "In Defense of Abortion Rights" rally.
According to PSL Tampa Bay leadership, this event had already been planned prior to yesterday's news, as a leak of the decision
surfaced over a month ago.
"We didn't want to leave a second to waste, we wanted to make sure we were able to mobilize the same day as the ruling," Jack Wallace told CL.
While both of the evening's marches condemned the SCOTUS and its decision, PSL Tampa Bay went further to hold both Republican and Democrat politicians accountable.
"Neither (party is) standing up for our rights, and we don't think that voting really is going to change that unfortunately," Wallace said.
Bullhorn in hand, PSL member and local organizer Karla Correa explained how the Democrats "could've codified (Roe v. Wade) into law."
"(Democrats) just want to use our abortion rights as political bargaining chips. You know how many texts and emails I got from Democrats asking me for money?"
Before passing the bullhorn to speakers from other allied socialist organizations, Correa referred to the Supreme Court as the "enemy of the people" and called for its abolition.
"Working class and poor women make up the majority of people getting abortions," said Taylor Cook from the Freedom Road Socialists
. "They will be affected the most by this, facing a new reason for criminalization..."
Despite a rainstorm, the rally marched from City Hall down Central Avenue.