'There isn't anything worth celebrating': Hundreds protest overturning of Roe v. Wade on Independence Day

·4 min read

For those gathered at Red Arrow Park Monday morning, the usual Fourth of July traditions of backyard barbecues and neighborhood parades were replaced with protesting and activism against the overturning of Roe v. Wade.

"We are standing up for women's rights and human rights," said Jennifer Shevey, who attended the protest with her father and sister. "That's more important than celebrating Fourth of July right now."

Jennifer Shevey from Whitefish Bay, gathers with others at Red Arrow Park before starting their walk to the Milwaukee Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse during the “People’s Independence Day: Fight for our rights, repeal Wisconsin abortion ban”, on Monday, July 4, 2022. Shevey was also joined by her sister Kerri Hart and father George Kuhagen for the rally.
Jennifer Shevey from Whitefish Bay, gathers with others at Red Arrow Park before starting their walk to the Milwaukee Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse during the “People’s Independence Day: Fight for our rights, repeal Wisconsin abortion ban”, on Monday, July 4, 2022. Shevey was also joined by her sister Kerri Hart and father George Kuhagen for the rally.

Hundreds like Shevey convened at the park in downtown Milwaukee for the People's Independence Day protest. The crowd included everyone from a toddler in a wagon to Shevey's father George Kuhagen, a grandfather in a wheelchair.

The protesters marched to the U.S. Courthouse and Federal Building on Wisconsin Avenue, carrying homemade signs. Their chanting rang out through the streets — "My body, my choice." "Keep your rosaries off our ovaries." "Hey, hey, ho, ho, the Supreme Court has got to go."

Many onlookers watched from the sidewalks, others from the storefronts where they were working, as the mass of protesters passed through the streets.

After reaching the courthouse, the protesters listened to speakers from the Milwaukee Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression, Protect Our Rights Milwaukee, the Party of Socialism and Liberation, Moms Against Gun Violence, Freedom Road Socialist Organization and Reproductive Justice Action Milwaukee.

Speakers and protesters called for the repeal of Wisconsin State Statue 940.04, which criminalizes and bans abortion statewide.

Wisconsin's 1849 abortion ban went into effect on Friday, June 24, immediately after the Supreme Court overturned its 1973 landmark Roe v. Wade decision.

The law bans all abortions except when necessary to save the mother's life.

More: Is abortion legal in Wisconsin? Here's how the overturning of Roe v. Wade affects Wisconsin abortion laws

"It's very outdated," Carly Klein, one of the protest organizers, said. "This statute was written prior to women even having the freedom to vote."

Under State Statute 940.04, any person — other than the mother — involved in carrying out an abortion can be found guilty of a Class H felony.

The penalty for a Class H felony can be up to six years in prison and a fine of $10,000.

Although Gov. Tony Evers said he would grant clemency to doctors prosecuted under the statute, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and Evers' Republican gubernatorial opponents have vowed to enforce the law.

Ashley Ellis, left and her sister-in-law Kelsi Ellis, from Racine, gather with others at Red Arrow Park before starting their walk to the Milwaukee Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse during the “People’s Independence Day: Fight for our rights, repeal Wisconsin abortion ban”, on Monday, July 4, 2022.
Ashley Ellis, left and her sister-in-law Kelsi Ellis, from Racine, gather with others at Red Arrow Park before starting their walk to the Milwaukee Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse during the “People’s Independence Day: Fight for our rights, repeal Wisconsin abortion ban”, on Monday, July 4, 2022.

"As a teacher, it's very upsetting because I know that, especially my younger students, if something happens to them and they get pregnant, now they don’t have options," said Ashley Ellis, a middle school teacher.

Ellis added she has taught eighth graders who graduated from middle school pregnant.

Nothing 'worth celebrating'

When Amy Voss of Waukesha first learned that Roe v. Wade had been overturned, she said her initial reaction was one of "pure anger."

"I'm pissed off that my daughter now has fewer rights than I did," said Amy Voss, who attended the protest with her adult daughter Jennifer Voss. "My mother fought for these rights, and now I'm having to do the same thing for my daughter, for my nieces, for my friends."

In light of the Supreme Court's decision, Amy said she and Jennifer will not be celebrating Independence Day this year and, instead will enjoy a home-cooked dinner together.

"I don’t feel like there’s anything worth celebrating right now," Jennifer said.

Juan Reyna said he hasn't celebrated the Fourth of July since he was a child.

He attended the protest because he believes it is important that men "lend their voices" to abortion issues.

"Even though I'm a guy ... this is just basic human rights," he said.

Carly Klein, center,  from Milwaukee Alliance Against Racist & Political Repression, helps lead a crowd of several hundred during the “People’s Independence Day: Fight for our rights, repeal Wisconsin abortion ban”, rally down W. State Street on Monday, July 4, 2022.
Carly Klein, center, from Milwaukee Alliance Against Racist & Political Repression, helps lead a crowd of several hundred during the “People’s Independence Day: Fight for our rights, repeal Wisconsin abortion ban”, rally down W. State Street on Monday, July 4, 2022.

Amy Voss said it's also important to remember that abortion affects transgender and nonbinary people, and Klein said it's an issue of racial justice.

Klein believes Black and brown people will "no doubt" be most affected by the criminalization of abortion.

"When we're looking at it through a historical lens, it is the Black and brown communities that have been policed and criminalized the most when anything becomes illegal in this country," she said.

More: Here's what we know so about what the Roe decision will mean for abortion services in Wisconsin

More: Abortion ban makes matters worse for Black maternal health in Wisconsin, pregnancy specialists say

Two of the protest organizers' primary demands are that law enforcement not enforce the state's abortion ban and that the City of Milwaukee and Milwaukee County dismiss abortion cases.

In a June Marquette University Law School poll of over 800 Milwaukeeans and Wisconsinites, 58% of those surveyed said they supported the legalization of abortion in most or all cases.

"I hope that we can get our voices out to politicians and show that the vast majority of people are pro-choice," Klein said.

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This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Milwaukee protesters call for abortion access, boycott July 4