Hundreds of protesters gathered Saturday morning in downtown Los Angeles, the first in what was expected to be a day filled with protests and demonstrations across the region that denounced the Supreme Court’s decision to end a constitutional right to abortion.
In Grand Park — in the heart of downtown’s Civic Center — more than 200 people had assembled by mid-morning, with scores chanting, “My body, my choice,” on the steps of City Hall. Signs waved by protesters declared, “You are only banning safe abortions” and “I am woman watch me vote.”
“What do we want?” an organizer yelled, and the crowd of mostly women replied in unison, “Rights!”
The number of participants in the rally was expected to swell by 1 p.m., when a concert, rally and march titled “Rock for Abortion Rights” is set to begin outside the nearby 1st Street U.S. Courthouse. Another protest is slated for 12 p.m. outside the Federal Building in Westwood.
The move by the Supreme Court’s conservative majority to overturn the landmark 1973 Roe vs. Wade ruling closely followed a leaked draft of the ruling published this spring by Politico. Still, the decision released Friday shocked and saddened scores across Southern California.
“I felt we were going backwards,” said Therese Zipperman, 33, describing her response to the ruling. “I worried about my future — women’s future.”
Zipperman drove from her residence in Burbank to join demonstrators Saturday in downtown L.A., where women chanted, “Two-four-six-eight, separate the church and state.”
To Zipperman, attendance at the rally was a way to fight back, along with voting and supporting organizations that advocate for abortion rights. Congress, she said, should make abortion legal across the country: “Legal, accessible, and affordable,” calling it “basic healthcare.”
In the hours after the ruling in Dobbs vs. Jackson Women’s Health Organization was released, thousands of protesters in Southern California took to the streets, channeling outrage, frustration and grief.
From Friday morning until just before midnight, scores flocked to downtown L.A., rallying in Pershing Square and outside the 1st Street courthouse. Several marched on the 110 Freeway and later, the 101 Freeway, temporarily blocking traffic.
After nightfall, demonstrators continued chanting and marching in downtown, and by 9 p.m., the Los Angeles Police Department declared an unlawful assembly, with officers in riot gear forming skirmish lines and warning protesters to leave or face arrest.
Times reporters were turned away and not permitted to observe detentions or arrests.
At least one person was arrested after people threw fireworks and other objects at officers near 5th and Main streets, said LAPD Chief Michel Moore.
The vast majority of protesters were peaceful, but “a much smaller group of individuals took to the streets with the intention of creating chaos and destruction,” Moore told The Times.
This story will be updated.