Protesters returned to the streets of downtown Los Angeles Saturday to demonstrate against the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn federal abortion protections, one day after some minor violence broke out between police and demonstrators.
Two large demonstration were set in downtown LA on Saturday, one beginning at 10 a.m. in Grand Park that drew at least a couple hundred people before noon, and another at 1 p.m. outside the federal courthouse on First Street.
Police told the public to expect severe traffic congestion downtown and several street closures around the Civic Center area.
Another rally was expected at the Federal Building in Westwood on Saturday.
Hundreds of protesters gathered downtown Friday in the hours after the Supreme Court announced its decision to overturn 1973’s Roe v. Wade ruling. The demonstrations were largely peaceful, but some skirmishes with Los Angeles police officers were reported, prompting the department to declare an unlawful assembly and issue a temporary citywide tactical alert to clear the streets.
Carrying signs with slogans such as “Overturn Roe? Hell no,” “Keep abortion safe + legal” and “My body my choice,” protesters marched outside the federal court building, at times chanting “This decision must not stand, legal abortion on demand.”
A series of speakers passionately addressed the crowd, blasting the ruling as an assault on women’s rights and danger to women’s lives.
“We are coming together today to fight like hell like our lives depend on it, because they do,” one speaker shouted to the crowd. “… We need to turn our fear into anger. We need to turn our fear into fury, because that is how we are going to stop this. This decision must not stand. … We need to take to the streets and say this Supreme Court decision must not stand.”
Another speaker, her voice quaking, told the crowd, “I’m angry. We’re all angry. People at home are angry.”
“We are very fortunate to live here in California,” she said. “… I worry for my friends and family in Texas.”
Similar protests and rallies were quickly organized in other areas Friday including at Pershing Square, outside Los Angeles City Hall, in Hollywood, Pasadena, Long Beach, Claremont, Fullerton and Irvine.
A candlelight vigil was held Friday night in West Hollywood. In Beverly Hills, officials said City Hall would be bathed in pink light throughout the weekend in support of women’s rights.
Los Angeles City Hall was similarly illuminated in pink lights Friday night.
Some in the crowd climbed onto the northbound side of the Harbor (110) Freeway at Fifth Street at around 7 p.m. A different group of protesters clashed with a line of Los Angeles Police Department officers who tried to block them from advancing down an on-ramp, the Los Angeles Times reported.
In video provided to The Times, dozens of protesters chanted at Eighth and Olive streets as police in riot gear pushed through the intersection. A firework was launched into the crowd, and some people scattered.
Los Angeles Police Chief Michel Moore said some protesters began pelting officers with fireworks at Fifth and Main streets and at least one person was arrested. A dispersal order was issued in the area of Fourth and Main streets at around 9:30 p.m. Main Street between Third and Fifth streets in downtown Los Angeles was closed nearly an hour.
Some on social media characterized the police response as “heavy handed.” A reporter with L.A. Taco, a platform that covers food and culture, tweeted that he was assaulted by a group of officers.
“LAPD officers shoved me and jabbed @joeyneverjoe in the stomach with a baton, sending him to the ground. We both identified ourselves as press repeatedly,” tweeted Lexis-Oliver Ray.
On a video, officers in riot gear can be heard shouting “leave the area, go back” and Ray describing himself as a member of the press.
Spokeswoman Norma Eisenman of the LAPD’s Media Relations Division told City News Service on Saturday that the department had no comment on Ray’s tweets. She added that no media staging area was set up for the demonstrations.
Moore acknowledged the protests were not violent but said some people sought to make his officers’ job harder.
“I’m grateful today’s events were largely peaceful,” the chief said. “A much smaller group of individuals took to the streets with the intention of creating chaos and destruction. Unfortunately some chose to enter the freeway, posing a serious risk. Later, a much smaller group fired pyrotechnics at officers.
“Our people strived to facilitate demonstrations while defending our people from dangerous assaults.”
Moore said the department is continuing to assess any injuries or damage resulting from the demonstrations.
Moore told KNX Newsradio earlier Friday the agency was shifting some of its deployment plans to ensure it is prepared to respond if any protests in the coming days get out of hand, the way some did two years ago during mass protests following the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police.
“Los Angeles will be safe,” Moore told KNX. “What was learned from two years ago were lessons in training and development of added tools. We’re not going to have any tolerance for people who wish to hijack this and resort to violence.”
Meanwhile, the LAPD was working to “assess and identify” potential threats made by groups calling for violence following the Supreme Court decision. Moore said Friday the department has been made aware of “extremist groups calling for a `Night of Rage’… directing violence towards reproductive and family advocacy groups, federal courthouses, and faith-based organizations and houses of worship.”
The groups — which the LAPD did not identify — called for the violence to begin at 8 p.m. Friday, Moore said. However, authorities had not identified any specific or credible threat against any organization in Los Angeles and no such activity had been reported as of 10 a.m. Saturday.