Key West residents and visitors showed their support for women and their reproductive rights by taking to Duval Street on Oct. 2 with fists raised in defiance, chanting a chorus of “My body, my choice.”
The event was held in solidarity with other marches throughout the country and comes on the heels of the criminalization and near-total ban of abortions passed in Texas earlier this year. The reproductive and human rights of women in Florida are in similar peril as nearly identical legislation was introduced by state Republican lawmakers last month.
Mayor and avowed feminist Teri Johnston presided over opening ceremonies, addressing the issue and the crowd that gathered at the pocket park on upper Duval. The congregation then took to the street, escorted by police and tailed by a donated trolley.
Protesters of all gender identities marched the length of Duval Street in the midday sun, drawing support from spectators and a particularly rigorous round of whooping applause from the brunch crowd at La Te Da. Passing 801 Bourbon, the sound of Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing” provided an apropos soundtrack that inspired an impromptu singalong.
Spectator support was mostly positive save for a flaccid attempt by a sunburned tourist in a tank top to incite the chanting of “F&*k Joe Biden.” One of the marchers swiftly reminded him, “You do you, dude, but I’m pretty sure he’s happily married.”
The march ended at Mallory Square with speeches from organizer Kathryn Norris of Florida Keys Indivisibles. “We are here because each of us should be able to make our own decision to have an abortion with dignity and respect,” Norris told the crowd. “Abortion is health care. We need to stop the stigma and end the criminalization of pregnancy, abortion and reproductive autonomy.” She urged the crowd to support the establishment of a local chapter of Ruth’s List, an initiative that recruits, trains and elects pro-choice women to office in Florida.
Bert Sise, chair of the Florida Keys Democrats, thanked volunteers, the Key West Police Department and trolley driver Luanne for their help in securing and supporting the Women’s March. Sise recalled marching for reproductive rights for the last five decades. “What we’re doing here today is the greatest nonviolent tool for overthrowing the government. Use it. We need to take over this country, but we’re going to do it legally. They want to put us back in the kitchen, barefoot and pregnant — we’re not going back. We’re not going back on 50 years of progress.”