|Photo credit: Andy Molloy, Kennebec Journal. UMF student Vanessa Norman, holding the pink sign she made for the occasion, is shown here at her first protest ever!|
In heat that felt like Texas – 100 degrees in Augusta, Maine's capital – CODEPINK women and allies took part July 15 in a national day to stand with Texas women. Women and girls in Texas are facing criminally restrictive legislation over what they choose to do with their bodies, and many of us were moved to show our support when we saw that tampons and pads were being confiscated from women and girls trying to enter the Texas capitol building. Also, people everywhere were inspired by Wendy Davis' epic 13 hour filibuster in the Texas Senate to block passage of the law.
|photo credit: Roger Leisner, Maine Paparazzi (see whole set here on Smugmug)|
Three elders and three younger women joined forces within sight of the State House at a traffic circle where thousands passed by honking, waving and giving the thumbs up signal to the messages on our signs. The Kennebec Journal sent a reporter to find out why Maine cared about state legislation in Texas (I told Susan McMillan: “Because the ALEC legislative agenda is here threating our freedom in Maine, too” -- a point amply demonstrated in the KJ article here.)
And my sister and I had some fun on the way to the demo posing in front of our ALEC-sponsored governor's official residence in orange t-shirts that benefit Planned Parenthood (get yours here).
A graduate teaching assistant from a Christian university in Virginia stopped and requested to interview us for an ethics class he helps teach that always debates about access to abortion. My sister Hope did a great job explaining to him why being for women's right to control their own reproductive destinies is not the same thing as being for abortion. She had told me on the way to the demo that she knew back in the 1970's that some day women would have to turn out in force to protect their rights over their own bodies
Most exciting for me was the opportunity to stand with Mindy Bergeron-Laurence, pictured here with the sign she held for a vigil in nearby Waterville, Maine in support of Davis' inspiring filibuster to block the Texas legislation. After a warmup vigil a few days prior, Mindy stood at a busy intersection on July 9 with a bottle of water, some peanut butter sandwiches and granola bars for 13 hours.
I had heard about the lone protester from someone who works in Waterville asking me if I knew who it was. I didn't then, but I do now! Inspired by her solo vigil from 7am to 8pm, numerous people stopped to hug her; one offered her a coffee roll, and another man who had seen her during his morning commute and then all day from his workplace offered her a turkey sandwich late in the day.
Mindy told me:
I spoke with a lot of people, a few with people who disagreed. I had one guy defiantly flip me off as he drove by, but people were really polite for the most part. One of my very first encounters of the day was a man on a bicycle who rode up and very politely asked me, "Who is Wendy Davis? What's this all about?" And as he realized it was a pro-choice thing he sad “You know that's murder right?” I just kind of looked at him and he said, “You should really look into that.” Then he politely said goodbye and rode off.
The positive encounters people were much more enthusiastic. I had two men in a truck pull up to the light beside me and one of them says in a really thick Southern accent “Who is Wendy Davis?” As I started to explain, “She stood up against anti-choice laws in TX,” he said, “Ma'am, I know exactly what you mean. I'm from the South. Thank you so much for doing this.”
Then there was a young man walking by with a group. He was around 20 years old and I wonder if he had just witnessed the group hug I got from two hippies. Anway, he walked up and said, ”You're right, Wendy Davis is great. I'm from Texas I need to give you a hug. Thank you so much for doing this.”
Around 6pm I was contemplating just doing 12 hours. My arms were beyond sore at that point. When traffic was coming from across the intersection towards me I was holding my sign up over my head so that people could see it from a distance. Then when the traffic was coming from the different direction I would hold it down.
But that last couple of hours I had the most direct, positive interactions, probably because people had seen me out there all day. I had a group in their mid to late 50's and they weren't really hippies but maybe kind of beatniks stop and tell me: “You're so brave. Good for you. It's about time someone did something like this.”
I work right down the road and I'm still having people stop me and say, “You were the one with the sign weren't you? What's that all about?”
Hopefully it's spreading the idea that our voices matter. The voice of the individual matters. That's what I got from what went down in Texas. We have to fight, and we can fight. And we can win.