That is the Question.
After careful deliberation, and in the face of a coordinated effort to deter us, ISO members decided that standing up for women’s rights is absolutely necessary at this critical juncture. And hence, on Saturday morning, members of the Pittsburgh Branch, along with Green Party comrades, held their position cater-corner from the anti-choice zealots during the Defund Planned Parenthood rally.
Leading up to the event proved to be quite the learning experience. Initially, it seemed that other left leaning organizations (that have recently shown solidarity) were on-board and eager to stand up to the bigotry of the right. Au contraire, mon frère! Within a few days, a gigantic online shit-storm was hurled our way. The dialogue on the Facebook invitation page became so toxic, that the comments section had to be shut down (due to some personal attacks). The vitriol was created by only a few people, but apparently they have a lot of friends – and the game was afoot.
It quickly became evident (to those that didn’t already know), that Facebook is not the proper forum to have a productive dialogue – especially on issues that people are passionate about. A public meeting was held on the Pitt Campus entitled “Their Body, Their Choice: The Struggle for Women’s Rights.” After a short presentation, stack was taken and a healthy discussion continued for an hour or so. A couple of folks at the event spoke in opposition to holding a counter-protest. They were treated with dignity and respect, although their arguments did not convince other attendees who overwhelmingly felt that we must speak out when our rights are under attack. Comrades also felt strongly that the current strategy of siding with Democrats and hoping they’ll stand up – is no longer (and has never been) a viable option.
Unfortunately, we still took an online beating by those who felt a counter-protest was an unwelcome tactic in the eyes of Planned Parenthood. Branch members debated and deliberated once again, deciding that a silent protest – with signs – would be the best way to move forward. In this way, we would stand in opposition to the zealots, not be confrontational, and in NO WAY be intimidating to patients using the facility.
The Saturday morning event was almost anticlimactic – as it lasted just over an hour. The anti-choice people controlled the area in front of the clinic and were mostly well-behaved. We were outnumbered by more than ten to one, but held our ground. Only a couple of rather odd individuals (perhaps in need of mental health care) wandered over to our area to try to instigate a reaction. Again, we stood our ground in silent solidarity.
The most interesting part of the morning was when a man wearing what appeared to be homemade clergy vestments (with a Ted Nugent type hat and sunglasses, and a Trump sign), climbed the short wall directly behind us with a bullhorn. We raised our ISO “Defend Women’s Rights” posters higher as he began a somewhat bizarre diatribe that started with the usual anti-choice rhetoric but soon morphed into a rambling message of non-sequiturs. When he got to the part about global warming being created by the blood of dead babies, even the right wingers were wondering what the hell was going on?! Of course, this made for a photo op that the news media pounced on. It was surely a tactical error, as all of the anti-choice people were staring directly at us – with our pro-choice signs – as he “jumped the shark” and was not able to stay on message.
In the end, comrades felt that we had done what was necessary – even when it might be unpopular with some. When our rights are under attack – we stand up and fight back.