Tallahassee, FL – On Wednesday, March 8, more than 40 people rallied outside the Leon County Courthouse to defend women’s and reproductive rights and to commemorate the 115th anniversary of International Women’s Day. The rally was organized by the Tallahassee Freedom Road Socialist Organization (FRSO).
Chants like “We won’t go back; we will fight back!” and “Pro-life? That’s a lie! You don’t care if people die!” echoed down the Monroe Street corridor.
For more than 100 years, workers, progressives and revolutionaries all over the world have celebrated International Women’s Day with protests, rallies and marches against gender oppression and for equal rights.
Florida is often the battleground for right-wing attacks on the democratic rights of oppressed peoples, like women and LGBTQ+ people. Prior to the Justice Alito leak and subsequent overturning of Roe v. Wade, the Florida state legislature passed a 15-week abortion ban, despite mass opposition to the bill. This month the Florida GOP continued their assault on reproductive rights by introducing a draconian six-week abortion ban at the start of the legislative session.
Last year, Florida Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) chapters mobilized to the capitol in opposition to the 15-week ban but were met with suppressed public comment at committee hearings and were violently thrown out and were trespassed for vocalizing opposition to the bill.
“We were told from the second we walked in that ‘freedom of speech doesn’t exist here’ [at the Florida House]. The voices of Floridians, from students to the community members, are not valued by our representatives or our government,” said a member of FSU SDS.
As the attacks on people’s democratic rights increase, so too does the political repression against the people’s movements. This week, four members of Tampa Bay Students for a Democratic Society were brutalized, arrested and charged with felonies by campus police for demanding a meeting with their university president regarding cuts to diversity, equity, and inclusion programs.
While the fight for reproductive rights has taken stage front and center, it is just one aspect of the struggle women are up against. Women workers earn, on average, only 77% of the income of male workers in the workforce. Black women earn about 77% of the average income for all women, and Chicana and Latina women only earn about 70% of the average for all women. Additionally, sexual violence and abuse are massively underreported across the country.
Regina Joseph, speaking on behalf of the FRSO, conveyed an optimistic message: “We know that we have the power. That’s why they are scared. That’s why they throw the police on us. That’s why when we got arrested during #Tally19 there were hundreds of police officers waiting to throw us in jail. Because they’re afraid of our power, because they know we outnumber them, because they know we are tired of the way we are being ruled and it cannot continue anymore.”
The Tallahassee FRSO was joined by several community and student organizations, including the Tallahassee Community Action Committee (TCAC), FSU Students for a Democratic Society (FSUSDS), Women’s Voices of Southwest Florida (WVSWFL), VegFSU, and Tallahassee IWW.
For more on International Women’s Day, read the FRSO statement here: https://frso.org/statements/celebrate-international-womens-day-defend-reproductive-rights-fight-for-womens-rights/