Peaceful, emotional Twin Cities crowds mark Roe's unraveling

Protesters hold a banner during a march
Hundreds of people marched through the streets of Minneapolis against the Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade on Friday.
Caroline Yang for MPR News

Updated: 2 p.m.

In the Twin Cities, people expressed deep and opposite reactions to the decision by the U.S. Supreme Court on Friday to overturn Roe v. Wade, ending federal protections for abortion. That abortion remains legal in Minnesota, and protected under the state’s constitution, did not temper the emotions on either side.

Outside the federal courthouse building in Minneapolis, demonstrators filled the courtyard from sidewalk to sidewalk. Carrying signs that said "we won't go back,” many expressed their anger and grief at the overturning of Roe.

Danielle Becker says when the decision came out, her first thought was of her 11-year-old daughter.

“I care very deeply about her future and her right to choose bodily autonomy. And so I think it's very important that she gets to choose what she does with her life,” Becker said.

Becker said she's had abortions in the past, including at the Planned Parenthood clinic in South Dakota. The state bordering Minnesota quickly criminalized abortion unless the pregnant person’s life is in danger.

Throughout the event, speakers led the crowd through songs, chants and a so-called "primal scream."

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Angie Meija came from Rochester to join in the demonstration.

She teaches a reproductive justice class at the University of Minnesota, and previously volunteered at an abortion clinic in Miami.

“I worked in a clinic where they had to close it, because somebody was trying to put acid inside,” Meija said. “I wasn't expecting this.”

While many came out to demonstrate their frustration and shock, others said they just wanted to be in the community after what they called a very difficult day.

Just outside downtown Minneapolis, nearly one thousand people gathered outside the U of M’s Humphrey School ahead of an abortion rights march led by the university’s chapter of Students for a Democratic Society.

A similarly sizable rally took place at the same location last month after the initial Supreme Court leak suggested Roe v. Wade's future.

Minneapolis City Council member Aisha Chughtai, a first-generation immigrant, addressed protesters emphatically about the connections between immigrant rights and the reproductive justice movement. She spoke as a representative of the Minnesota Immigrant Rights Action Committee (MIRAC).

“Though abortion is legal [in Minnesota], abortion is not affordable or accessible for so many people who are immigrants, for those who are Black and Brown, for those who are trans, who are poor, who are young – and who are at intersections of those identities,” Chughtai said.

Chughtai also called out Democrats including President Joe Biden and former President Barack Obama for their failure to push to codify Roe v. Wade into law before it was overturned.

Several students and other activist organizations spoke to the fired up crowd that spilled onto 19th Ave. S., many criticizing what they say is a liberal instinct to promote voting as the primary action after outcomes like Friday’s Supreme Court ruling.

“This is an all means necessary fight,” one speaker said. “You better be ready to do something other than vote.”   

The mass of people weaved through the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood – chanting, hoisting signs in the air, picking up more protesters along the way – all the way down Washington Ave. to the federal courthouse downtown, where others were demonstrating earlier.

At the same time, anti-abortion advocates celebrated in St. Paul Friday hours after the ruling overturning Roe v. Wade. They gathered outside of the downtown federal courthouse named for Warren E. Burger.

"He was the Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court that brought the Roe versus Wade decision to the United States. But we're standing here today because that decision of 1973 is gone," said Brian Gibson, executive director of Pro-Life Action Ministries.

"For almost 50 years, we have been working hard. We have been praying hard. We have been diligent in our efforts. We have been consistent in our work.”

A group of people against abortion rights
Twin Cities Archbishop Bernard Hebda at the Pro-Life Action Ministries rally in St. Paul on Friday to celebrate the Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade.
Kerem Yücel | MPR News

Among the speakers was Archbishop Bernard Hebda, of the St. Paul and Minneapolis diocese.

"Brothers and sisters, I would not have missed this event because I wanted to see the faces of those who have been praying for all of these years for the reversal of Roe versus Wade. It is truly the Lord's victory. But thank you so deeply for your prayers," the archbishop said.

Hebda made a promise for those who might seek an abortion.

"I pledge that our Catholic churches will be a sanctuary for women in crisis pregnancies, any woman in a crisis pregnancy who comes to the door of a Catholic Church in this Archdiocese seeking assistance will be supported and at a minimum referred to resources where she can get help.”

People hold anti abortion signs
Pro-Life Action Ministries held a rally in St. Paul on Friday to celebrate the end of Roe v. Wade in the United States.
Kerem Yücel | MPR News

Around 150 people were gathered for speakers, songs and prayers outside the federal building.

But they were met with around a dozen counterprotesters, one of whom had a bullhorn, which he used liberally throughout the rally.

Kiyla Fears lives in a building near the rally. Her building sent out a note saying there would be noise from the anti-abortion rally, and she decided to walk down.

"I just came down here because I was like no, they're not gonna celebrate in front of my door that they're taking away my rights," Fears said.

The pro and anti groups verbally confronted each other as the rally went on, but the event was largely peaceful. The tension is likely to continue in an election season where politicians on both sides say Minnesota's legal abortion status is on the ballot.