Petoskey Women’s March sees modest turnout, but good spirits

PETOSKEY — The corner of US-31 and Lake Street was even louder and busier than usual on Saturday.

Over the weekend, thousands of people across the country marched in support of reproductive freedom exactly one month before midterm election day.

In Michigan, the stakes are higher for pro-choice advocates with Proposition 3 on the ballot. The measure would enshrine the right to abortion in the state constitution.

In Petoskey, about 50 demonstrators held up colorful signs on the side of the highway.

Many drivers honked their horns in support of the group’s messages. Others drove by with their thumbs down or middle finger up.

This didn’t bother Martha Lancaster much. She has been protesting for reproductive rights since the 1970s, just before the enactment of Roe v. Wade. She said she often thinks of her mother at times like these.

“My mother was a proponent of abortion rights. She actually had an illegal abortion six years before I was born and she was ready to talk about it,” Lancaster said. “But she felt very bad about having to be a criminal to exercise what should have been a basic right for her. . .”

Lancaster helped the group Reproductive Freedom for All collect a record 730,000 signatures to put abortion rights on the Michigan ballot.

The group, along with the ACLU of Michigan, Michigan Voices and Planned Parenthood Advocates of Michigan are spearheading the awareness campaign ahead of Election Day.

Other protesters included members of the Charlevoix County Democrats such as Tracy Ward.

She said she expected backlash from Northern Michigan’s highly Republican base. She was a Republican but switched parties due to the June 24 U.S. Supreme Court ruling overturning Roe v. Wade.

She and other protesters used the motto “we don’t support abortion, but we support the right to choose”.

Women’s March protesters carry pro-choice signs along US-31 on Saturday, October 8. A group of about 50 people showed up at the October 8 demonstration. They were joined by thousands nationwide. (Photo: Michael Livingston/IPR News)

“Northern Michigan has always been a very red conservative area and we know it,” Ward said. “We know there are people who don’t agree with our views, but we know there are people who do and who may be intimidated to come forward- out.”

Demonstrations in Petoskey and Traverse City were carried out without any sightings of counter-protesters.

According to data from the Women’s March website, the 2022 Women’s Wave spawned more than 400 events and more than 15,000 participants from across the country.

The Women’s March is the same group that organized the 2017 march on Washington DC which saw the participation of over 5 million people around the world. It is the largest one-day demonstration in American history.

As for Proposition 3, a recent Detroit Free Press poll found that 64% of participants will vote in favor.

“To me, it comes down to accepting women as full human beings and citizens of this country,” said Susan Stockman, one of the organizers of the Petoskey protest.

“Women need to start telling their stories because there are so many more than we realize that we have kept to ourselves for a long time.”

About Rachel Gooch

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