On the morning of June 24, 2022, the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, a landmark court case dating back to 1973 that deemed it constitutional to have the right to an abortion. Immediately, thousands gathered across the nation, both in protest and in celebration of the reversal.
Many members of The Michigan Daily photo staff witnessed firsthand the emotional eruption that this decision caused across the country.
Anna: I flew out to Washington D.C. on Thursday expecting nothing more than to enjoy a short vacation. I arrived that night excited to reconnect with friends, explore a new city and relax after a busy start to the summer. The next morning, not even 15 minutes after my friends and I woke up, we learned that Roe v. Wade had just been overturned. We were too stunned to speak. We sat on the floor, huddled around a computer live-streaming CNN coverage of crowds gathering outside the Supreme Court. A day that was planned out from start to finish got thrown out the window — I grabbed my camera without a second thought and we hopped on the Metro.
Immediately, we were surrounded by pro-choice marchers who flooded the trains. After following them to the Supreme Court we were met with a crowd of hundreds of angry protesters. The clashes between pro-life and pro-choice advocates were nowhere to be seen — advocates for reproductive rights had completely taken over the highly-policed, completely barricaded First Street. Tears were shed, voices were exhausted and despite the 90 degree heat, the crowd grew. Camera crews pushed their way through the crowd, and being the curious photographer I’ve always been, I snuck around behind them and got to the front of the protest. There, I planted myself for 30 minutes of frantic shooting, attempting to somehow do the protesters’ emotions justice through photos.
What struck me most was not the protesters, the media response or the general grandeur of the protest itself — it was the fear that set in as soon as I arrived on the grounds of the Supreme Court. Each scream, each siren, each sudden loud noise, whether the crash of bikes hitting the pavement or clapping in the distance, was jarring. The shooting at Robb Elementary in Uvalde, Texas, was still fresh, having taken place exactly a month before the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. In a world where many in power are quicker to protect assault weapons than they are to protect a woman’s right to control her own body, my friends and I kept our heads on a swivel, prepared to escape if need be. Looking back on that day, the fact that this awareness was second nature is horrifying.
Resulting from the protest was a mix of confusion, power, tragedy and togetherness, emotions that I never would’ve expected to leave me with a sense of hope upon heading away from the Supreme Court for the day. Hope drawing from those that used what seemingly few rights they had left to raise their voices louder to reach over the fences that lined the steps of the Supreme Court, to reach the snipers stationed on the roof, to drown out the misguided priorities of many Supreme Court justices.
Sydney: This was not the first pro-choice protest I have been to, and yet, this time was different. There was more anger, more sadness than before. Everyone knew it was coming, but that didn’t change how much it hurt. All the hope that maybe they would change their minds was gone. This protest was different. I have grown up right outside of Washington D.C. I have gone to all the protests: pro-choice, anti-gun violence, climate action. But when this decision was announced, I knew I had to go into Washington D.C., and not just fight, but capture the fight. The short walk from the Metro station I have done so many times was the same, but the adrenaline pumping ever since the decision came down was different. My mom, walking next to me, having had more reproductive protections at my age than I do now was different. The high gates in front of the Supreme Court steps and the snipers on the roof were different. The acknowledgement among the pro-choice protesters in the crowd that this decision was the beginning of the end of not just abortion rights, but any right given based off of the right to privacy, was different. It was all different.
The crowd chanting in front of the Supreme Court was supportive and energizing, full of hundreds of people gathered to protest, representing 70% of Americans, who supported Roe v. Wade. People ready to make their voices heard and speak out against this decision. People who aren’t prepared to back down, despite the exhaustion of a continuous fight that seems to be moving backwards.
But the emotions in that crowd could be felt the instant you walked in, and were more overwhelming than the Washington D.C. heat and humidity. The fear for the future, the mourning of lives already being lost, the anger not just at anti-choice individuals, but at the system as a whole — it can all be summed up with the collective scream that people from all different backgrounds made at 4:20 p.m. on June 24, 2022. A scream meant not only to draw attention, but as a united release of shared despair.
Julianne: “Bans off our bodies, abortion rights now!”
The crowd that rallied on the Diag headed down through Nichols Arcade towards East Liberty Street into Main Street towards Ann Arbor City Hall. The mass grew as they marched deeper into Downtown Ann Arbor. The rallying cries grew louder and stronger. The energy and urgency for action was powerful. People enjoying dinner on the sides cheered and supported the demonstration. Signs and posters held high as the sun set between the buildings. The chants continued to the final destination at city hall. The Graduate Employees’ Organization union leaders led the crowd and encouraged protesters to share their frustration and anger at the Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade that morning. Those who took the open mic called for reproductive freedom, informing opposers about the importance of abortion access and the inclusion of trans rights in the discussion of abortion rights.
As I navigated through the mass gathered on the Diag, marched alongside the protesters, listened to advocates in front of city hall, I tried to encapsulate the passionate reactions and forceful calls for action with my camera. Watching the cycle of Michigan residents at the Reproductive Freedom for All table, I felt the eagerness and urgency to protect their own rights and others in need of abortion access and healthcare. Immersed in this determined, driven energy, it gave me some reassurance and hope that this movement would reclaim protection and regain traction towards greater abortion access and reproductive freedom for all.
As the crowd shared this anger, grieving and devastation over the morning’s hostile ruling, the night ended on a hopeful chant: “They said go back, we say fight back!”
Lucas: Spending my summer in humble Lincoln, Neb. is a great way to relax and forget about everything. When the news broke regarding the new Supreme Court decision, I anticipated mass outrage, just not in Nebraska. I was wrong, as during the same day of the ruling, a large rally was to happen at Lincoln City Hall. I now expected the worst, given the existence of die-hard countrymen set in the “good ol’ days” mindset and a passionate community of activists fighting for social justice.
After parking near the capitol, I began to make the straight-on trek to city hall. When the foliage cleared to reveal the dense, colorful and passionate crowd, I heard their cries directed towards the state capitol behind me. The protesters gathered on the steps of city hall with unmistakably clear chants and demands for reform. “My body, my choice!” cried the protesters. I have always been somewhat intimidated by protests, but this crowd, in contrast with my expectations, was energetic and passionate with an unfaltering positive attitude. It was easy to become immersed in their energy. I was both impressed and surprised to see no hecklers or counter-protesters disrupting the rally. If there were, they failed to beat the crowd’s unwavering passion. As traffic drove past city hall, protesters shouted their messages to oncoming drivers. Many would honk their horns, throw out a fist of solidarity or even stand through the sunroof to show support that was equally matched with passionate cheering by the crowd.
As the end of the rally neared, seeing my neighbors, friends, and community gather in this critical time left me only hopeful for the change my hometown and nation at large can bring.
Summer Managing Photo Editor Julianne Yoon can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.