How to Go on Your First Pro Choice Protest March
Go alone, or bring a friend? Thalia addresses this and other questions (Keep it legal? Protest panic?) on her first ever protest march…
As I type this, a 19 year old woman in my state faces seven years in jail. This young woman faces a jail term that would have a substantial effect on her life. No one in the state has been charged with this crime in 50 years. What terrible offense did she commit? She had an abortion.
If that shocks you as much as it shocked me, you’re probably feeling empathy towards the young woman and thinking that you’d like to help. That was my initial reaction, and soon I was out to see what I could do for her and others who may find themselves in a similar position.
Research what you’re protesting about
Through a series of coincidences, I heard about a protest rally and march to be held for this cause. I decided to dive right in and clicked the “Attending” button on the appropriate Facebook page immediately. After I cooled down a little, I realized that I should probably do some research about the laws I would be protesting.
It turns out that thousands of women each year in this state have abortions. Abortion is legal if “necessary to preserve the woman from serious danger to her life or her physical or mental health” So each of these women had to prove that the pregnancy would be a danger to their health. I find the idea horrific that after all the psychological, emotional and physical pain involved, any woman who doesn’t jump through all the right hoops could be charged and potentially jailed.
Now that I had a clearer idea on what I would be protesting against, all that was left was to go along and have a grand old time, right?
Not quite: I didn’t have any friends to go along with. That’s a great recommendation of mine: Take some friends! Luckily I spotted someone I knew partway through the march, but the initial approach would definitely have been more comfortable with company. I got there early – about 15 minutes before the rally was scheduled to start. Luckily, one of the organizers saw that I was nervous (or perhaps shifty) and struck up a most interesting conversation. We talked about immigration, Socialism and all sorts of issues. If I gained nothing else from the afternoon, I certainly had a thought-provoking conversation. If you attend a protest, I would highly recommend chatting to anyone who’ll listen – people who organize or attend protest rallies are often passionate and opinionated.
I started to get nervous as speakers began to take the mic. It was similar to watching the coverage of a pre-election political campaign: Some interesting facts, a few great ideas, some proposals I strongly disagreed with and a lot of slagging off ‘the other guy’. It was not entirely what I had expected – I thought that this would be the rational side of the argument. Instead, it seemed there was a lot of time spent criticizing female politicians and spouting extremist views. I gained some perspective that day – opinions on a subject will never be black and white. Sometimes we can lean further one way than the other, but rarely will we find a case of “one or the other”. I certainly won’t be joining the “Socialist Alternative” any time soon.
Keep it Legal
There was a moment of panic as the idea of marching on the road in peak-hour CBD traffic was bandied around. Being the level-headed, overly sensible thing I am, I was certainly not keen on being arrested, and didn’t even want to think about any disturbances that might erupt. Thankfully, a vote was held, and it was decided (by a whisker) that we would march on the footpath. And so we marched, 20 minutes around the busiest streets in the city. The reactions from the many passers-by were mixed. Some stared, some avoided eye contact. A few yelled obscenities and a few smiled. A cameraman from one of the major networks followed us around, and I thought: “What if my grandparents see me on the news?” All of that faded away when I remembered what I was there for.
So, my advice for those who have never been to a protest before:
- Research the issue. Don’t just jump on the ‘alternative’ bandwagon – get all the facts and make the most informed decision possible.
- Get some friends together. It might be perfectly safe and enjoyable to go alone, but having a few supportive friends around could make you feel less nervous.
- Talk to anyone you can, and don’t be afraid to express your feelings on the issue. Collect any pamphlets or information being handed out at the rally.
- Stick to your guns. You don’t have to agree with everything that’s said.
- Avoid illegal activity. It’s easy to get swept up in the passion of those around you, but if you feel that your safety may be compromised, walk away.
Having your voice heard is important. If you approach it the right way, attending a protest rally can allow you to gain valuable insight and experience, as well as potentially having an effect on your government. Have fun, be safe, and never miss a chance to learn something new.