While many in Brevard have geared up for the 4th of July weekend with plans for hot dogs, pool parties and fireworks, three youngsters are looking forward to spending their holidays outdoors of the Harry T. and Harriette V. Moore Justice Center in Viera, protesting for freedom from everything.
Jacob Gelman, 18, Addisyn Mayer, 9, and Chelsea Partridge, 29, organized the protest after the The Supreme Court’s decision last week to overturn Roe v. Wade, ruling that the right to terminate a pregnancy was not in the United States Constitution.
With this ruling, abortion has been banned in seven states, temporarily banned in two others, and may be banned or restricted in others. And with Judge Clarence Thomas inviting challenges to other rulings that legalized same-sex marriage and provided access to contraceptives, some fear Roe v. Wade is just the first decision to be overturned.
“We are not backing down”:Hundreds attend ‘Bans Off Our Bodies’ rally in Viera
“I see Roe v. Wade and all of these Supreme Court decisions as the start of a potentially much larger and more frightening development on the right and in the United States,” Gelman said, adding that he was concerned about d other issues such as election integrity with presidential elections and LGBTQ rights.
Gelman, who has been involved with the Space Coast Equality Coalition — a group that advocates for LGBTQ rights in Brevard — first pitched the idea for the protest to Partridge, whom he knew through the coalition.
They contacted Addisyn, who has been involved in local and national activism since she was 3, including at Melbourne’s March for Our Lives rally to protest gun violence, and the three worked to plan the protest.
Partridge said she hopes to help represent young people in America and show others how political issues affect them.
“We see so many different ways that our freedoms are being stripped away, and we want to say as a collective of young people, that’s not OK, and we see what’s going on in this country,” she said. . “We are not too young to understand it. We see it, we understand it and we are not happy about it.
For Addisyn, who has been involved in activism since the age of 3, she worries about the impact of the ruling and other recent legislation on her and her friends.
“I want to protect my rights to my body,” she said. She added that she fears her transgender friend could be affected by Florida’s Parental Rights in Education bill, dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill by critics.
The three, who will be joined by Space Coast Pride and Colectiva Queer – two local groups serving the LGBTQ community – have chosen July 4 as their protest day because of the significance of the holiday.
“It’s wrong to celebrate the 4th of July this year when the 4th of July is supposed to symbolize America living up to all those promises of freedom and rights and it just doesn’t live up to it,” he said. Gelman said. “It’s going back decades, and it’s terrifying, and so doing anything other than protesting this 4th of July didn’t feel right to me.”
The protest will begin at 1 p.m. and continue until 4 p.m. with signs and speeches. Halfway through the protest, those in attendance will lie beside the reflecting pond outside government buildings while holding banners and signs. It’s called a die-in – a protest tactic where protesters lay down to look dead.
Gelman said the symbolism of death was powerful for him and part of the decision was to incorporate the die-in into the manifestation.
“This symbolism represents the amount of things we are willing to lose – the death of bodily autonomy, the death of democracy, the death of same-sex marriage, the death of all those things that we all hold so dear, and to how terrifying is that it seems so close that all of those things could be gone,” he said.
Partridge added that seeing bodies lying down would also create an image of more literal deaths.
“I think it also helps symbolize what we really symbolize with the overthrow of Roe v. Wade. People will die because of these laws,” she said. “It’s not just with the reversal of Roe v. Wade, with the Don’t Say Gay Bill and other bills that particularly harm our LGBTQ students, they are already at higher risk for suicide, and we are putting vulnerable people at risk. We put particularly marginalized communities, people of color, low-income people, at risk, because at the end of the day, wealthy people will always be able to have abortions and move to places where their rights are recognized.
The group said the protest was also an opportunity to come together to gain a sense of community and try to make a difference, no matter how small.
“Sometimes I think people who embrace these terrible things, write these terrible opinions – sometimes I think…. They want you to feel hopeless,” Partridge said. “I don’t agree with that philosophy and I want young people to know that there is a community out there, they can make a difference, they might not see it right away, but every act is for something. ‘unfair will move the needle, but gradually.’