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Abortion rights supporters, opponents clash while demonstrating in downtown Dallas

Dallas police intervened as the groups collided Wednesday afternoon.

Abortion rights supporters
Abortion rights supporters and opponents clashed while demonstrating in downtown Dallas on Wednesday, June 29, 2022.(Lola Gomez / Staff Photographer)

By Jamie LandersAria JonesValeria OlivaresIsabella Volmert and Nataly Keomoungkhoun

Abortion rights supporters and opponents came face to face Wednesday afternoon during a protest in downtown Dallas.

The protest, organized by abortion rights supporters, began at noon at Dallas City Hall and became rowdy after a handful of counterprotesters appeared about 12:15 p.m.

Protests have sprung up in North Texas and around the country after the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision Friday to overturn Roe vs. Wade. Tuesday night in Denton, hundreds of demonstrators gathered outside City Hall as the City Council considered a resolution — which ultimately passed, 4-3 — that would ask police to deprioritize enforcement of abortion laws.

At the beginning of Wednesday’s rally in Dallas, Kamyon Conner, executive director of Texas Equal Access Fund, told protesters not to worry about the counterprotesters, but more than half of the supporters attempted to engage with them as police tried to keep the groups separated.

Written in chalk on sidewalks and walls around City Hall were messages that said “Fill me with rage” and “You can only ban safe abortions.” Opponents were gathered behind police, and one person held a sign that said “Repent, turn to Jesus or burn.”

Anjali Das, 19, said she joined the rally with her friends because she was “enraged and livid” over the Supreme Court’s decision. She said although she was worried about counterprotesters, she felt strength in the number of abortion rights supporters.

”Especially being women of color, that’s a fear whenever we step out of the house but especially while protesting,” she said. “But I feel like when you see all of these people, they are here to protect you.”

Hundreds of protesters began gathering around City Hall as tensions grew between the groups. A police officer asked demonstrators to stay back at the intersection in front of City Hall, but they instead began marching up Akard Street.

One officer was heard saying, “There are only six of us, what can we can do?”

Police said no arrests were made during the demonstration.

Uduak Nkanga, one of the organizers with The Afiya Center and an abortion rights supporter, said the turnout exceeded expectations, especially on a weekday afternoon.

“Despite anti groups coming along, we stayed focused for the reason why we were there,” she said.

The ruling by the nation’s high court will set in motion “trigger laws” that ban abortion in 13 states — including Texas.

Texas’ law will go into effect 30 days after the Supreme Court issues its final judgment in the case, Dobbs vs. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which may take several weeks from the release of the court’s opinion.

All Texas clinics stopped providing abortions on Friday. On Tuesday, however, a state court ruled that they could temporarily resume abortions through six weeks of pregnancy.

The protesters marched through Akard Station and the AT&T Discovery District while chanting and banging on their signs, with the noise they made echoing off the downtown high-rises. People walked out of restaurants and offices downtown to watch the roaring crowd pass by.

Although organizers of Wednesday's protest
Although organizers of Wednesday’s protest for abortion rights initially only intended to rally at Dallas City Hall, demonstrators eventually marched through downtown streets.(Lola Gomez / Staff Photographer)

Nkanga said the march was spontaneous and that organizers only planned the rally. As protesters marched throughout downtown without a police escort, drivers were forced to stop. At some points, the crowd weaved through traffic.

Some drivers honked in support, while others looked frustrated as they were forced to wait for hundreds of people to walk past.

The protesters also circled the Earle Cabell Federal Building on Commerce Street several times, blocking traffic before returning to City Hall around 2 p.m.

Taña Welch, 47, recently moved to Dallas from Atlanta. As an abortion rights supporter, Welch said she frequently attended protests in Georgia but was nervous about Wednesday’s because of Texas’ gun laws.

Despite worries of violence erupting, she said it’s important for her to teach her children to “protect their rights and know how to fight for them.”

”You can’t let it scare you,” Welch said. “Gotta have your voice.”

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