On the Fourth of July, a crowd of more than 110 people, mostly women, lined Garrison Avenue. No one wore red, white and blue. No one waved the American flag. Among the protesters, the consensus was that they are not free in the land of the free.
Emily McKinney, Phylis Savoy and Anyely Cruz organized the protest. McKinney and Savoy graduated from the Future School in May, and Cruz also graduated from an online high school based in Springdale in May.
“We really wanted to show that this year there really wasn’t anything to celebrate,” Cruz said about the Fourth of July.
Cruz founded the For You Project this year. The protest marked the organization's first event. Cruz envisions a future for the group where members can give people who are homeless a hot meal, or they can deliver medications to immunocompromised people.
“We’ve been raised to be feminists and stand up for ourselves because the government wasn’t going to do this for us," said McKinney, who would have died without the abortion she had last year.
Many women at the rally voiced the feeling that they are losing rights.
“Specifically I want my daughter to have the rights that her grandmother fought for," Bethany Fritschie-Threlkeld said.
Renee Davidson said that the overturning of Roe v. Wade makes her feel like she is going back in time.
“Birthing a child should be a right and not a punishment," Davidson said.
Davidson expressed fear that the Supreme Court would not stop at eliminating abortion rights. She worries that the justices will target the LGBTQ community and contraceptives next.
Davidson also added that each woman should be able to decide when life begins.
“They’re saying that a clump of cells is alive but it’s not," Davidson said.
Max Bock said he attended the protest because he is “fighting for women’s rights, women’s equality."
“We definitely don’t think the Republican Party should be dictating what a woman should do with their body," Bock said.
Loki Blaze said that the Roe v. Wade ruling affects more people than just women. It affects trans people as well, Blaze said donning the transgender flag as a cape.
Blaze also pointed out that pregnancies can be dangerous for people with uteruses. Blaze said that he would not be able to carry a fetus to full term because of his heart condition and would need an abortion.
“I’m here you know because the United States used to be a place of freedom," Tara Daugherty said. She later added, “They’re attacking their own country at this point."
In states, like Arkansas, where lawmakers have banned abortions, abortions will still happen. But they will be less safe, Blaze said.
Taylor Bowser said that Independence Day marked her first protest. Bowser has had an abortion and said she has no regrets about the choice.
“It was the best decision I ever made," Bowser said about her abortion.
Alex Gladden is a University of Arkansas graduate. She previously reported for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and The Jonesboro Sun before joining the Times Record. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article originally appeared on Fort Smith Times Record: Independence Day protest draws more than 100 pro-choicers