Today, across the country, right-wing anti-choice groups held rallies to defund Planned Parenthood, protesting outside clinics to intimidate and harass women searching for health care. Counter protests were also held in many locations throughout the country. There was no anti-choice rally in Rhode Island that I am aware of, but that didn’t stop over 100 supporters of Planned Parenthood from rallying to DEFEND the nearly 100-year-old organization.
Turning the tables on the anti-choice movement, supporters of Planned Parenthood rallied outside the Mother of Life Center on Atwells Avenue in Providence. Mother of Life Center is a crisis pregnancy center, one of many fake pregnancy health clinics run and funded by the Knights of Columbus. Not wanting to interfere with women who might be looking for healthcare services, this rally was held on a day the clinic was closed.
The event was organized by Vida Mia Ruiz, who spoke briefly to the crowd about the importance of resisting the Trump agenda. She also spoke about an action that took place earlier Saturday morning, when she and others placed non-political and welcoming signs out for people who might be walking to or past Planned Parenthood on Point St. They also parked a trailer in front of Planned Parenthood with a banner that blocked anti-choice protesters from being easily seen by passing cars.
Said Ruiz, “No member of this group is on the sidewalk or interfering with patient access to care with their presence. All patients see are signs that say, HAVE A NICE DAY and WE STAND WITH PLANNED PARENTHOOD.”
The signs deterred protesters, said Ruiz. “One of the regular opposition people showed up and left within an hour.”
Craig O’Connor, director of public policy and government relations at Rhode Island Planned Parenthood of Southern New England, also spoke to the crowd about how to best support Planned Parenthood and defend reproductive rights.
The protest then turned into a march, walking down Atwells Avenue before cutting through the city to the south steps of the State House.
The rally outside the crisis pregnancy center was being watched closely and recorded by members of the Knights of Columbus. At least two other members of the organization were watching from their cars, parked across the street. The event was entirely peaceful and respectful
More disturbingly, as the march approached the State House, a man carrying a Pepe the Frog sign attempted to join the march. According to organizer Vida Mia Ruiz, “He was confronted and ran away.” Pepe the Frog is commonly “used by haters on social media to suggest racist, anti-Semitic or other bigoted notions,” according to the Anti-Defamation League, which recently added the symbol to its “Hate on Display” database.