Marchers from across the state of Michigan and northern Ohio traded in their typical weekend plans to attend a Women’s March in Ann Arbor on Saturday afternoon at Liberty Plaza. Despite the brisk fall weather, over 250 attendees showed up to listen to live music — courtesy of WIFEE and the HUZz Band — make signs, hear from notable speakers and rally in support of women’s rights. The 2022 march, named “Women’s Wave 2022,” was hosted by Women’s March Ann Arbor, in collaboration with the Young Democratic Socialists of America (YDSA) chapter at the University of Michigan.
Chelsea Bruno, one of the co-hosts and organizers of Women’s March Ann Arbor, began the rally with a speech encouraging attendees to vote for reproductive rights — which will appear on the ballot as Proposal 3 — in the upcoming Nov. 8 general election.
“As with any election, there’s so much on the line,” Bruno said. “But on this specific ballot, our rights to reproductive freedom are on the line. This need to get people out to vote for candidates and proposals that put human and reproductive rights first is why we are gathered here today.”
Some organizations tabling at the march included NARAL Pro-Choice America, U-M Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Center, Washtenaw County Democratic Party and Our Revolution Michigan.
The march began on East Liberty Street and went around South Division Street, East Huron Street, South 4th Avenue, and then back onto Liberty. The organizers distributed sheets with march chants such as: “Roe, roe, roe your vote!” and “Our bodies! Our rights! Michigan women stand up and fight!”
U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Mich., was also in attendance Saturday and said it is essential for everyone to be concerned about the state legislative seats. Dingell said voters have the responsibility to protect the work that she and other politicians have accomplished over the years by voting for candidates in the upcoming November election who will prioritize women’s rights.
“We need to ask ourselves: What is happening in our country, and how are we going backwards 50 years on the law of the land with Roe v. Wade?” Dingell said. “Young people, we need you … you’re 25% of our population and 100% of our future. We need you. We need your voices. We need your energy.”
Dingell also spoke on women’s bodily autonomy and said it’s not right for people to tell women what to do with their bodies. She said voters need to maintain their energy until November and turn out on Election Day to counteract the recent Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, which had established a constitutional right to abortions since 1973. In the state of Michigan, abortion rights are still protected under a preliminary injuction, but its legality will be determined by Michigan voters in November.
“The right to choose is a decision that (a woman) makes with herself, her doctor and anybody else she wants to include in that decision,” Dingell said. “No six people anywhere have the right to tell a woman what she can do with her body, period.”
U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., told the crowd that she feels inspired when she is surrounded by passionate women, knowing they are not going to back down easily. Tlaib shared that in her family, she is the go-to member for election information and reminders. She said even though she informs her family, she can’t reach everyone, which is why direct contact is so important to improve turnout.
“You all got that power of direct contact with the folks that you know, you get their vote with us,” Tlaib said. “I don’t walk in (the polls) to vote for myself. I walk in because I care so freakin’ much for the community that raised me … When you walk into (the polls), walk in knowing there’s a bunch of people behind you. You’re showing up for them, not just for yourself with this vote.”
LSA sophomore Natalie Leach, YDSA president, said, as a 19-year-old, it was hard to sit idly by while people stripped away their bodily autonomy. Leach said they were at work when they heard about the overturning of Roe v. Wade and felt infuriated by politicians who claim to protect women but don’t take the necessary actions to do so.
“We have the power as the working class to change absolutely everything about the world we live in,” Leach said. “But that won’t happen if all we do is sit idly by and wait for things to change … A better world is absolutely possible.”
Michelle Elizabeth Brown, a Detroit-born public speaker, author and activist, told the crowd she can’t believe women still have to fight for autonomy over their bodies, their environment, their communities, and for education and the future of children. Brown said while it is important to call people out on political issues, we need to call them in as well.
“In 2017, I talked to a woman who said she had voted for (Trump) because of his stance on abortion. People called her out, saying she had made the wrong decision, but I called her in,” Brown said. “I said, ‘Why?’ And she said, ‘Well, I’m Catholic’ but then we talked about … the future of this country, and I’m here to tell you not only was she one of those 700,000+ signers of the (Reproductive Freedom for All) petition, she distributed them out to people.”
LSA junior Rowan Klar was at the march and told The Michigan Daily she thinks it’s important to remind herself why she’s voting, particularly as the election nears. Klar said she also enjoyed connecting with various student and community organizations.
“I think the University should be doing more advertising, it’s really good for students to come out,” Klar said. “It’s also cool to see people of all ages come together.”
Daily Staff Reporter Sejal Patil can be reached at email@example.com.