Women's March

Participants in Cleveland's Women's March cross over the Hope Memorial Bridge on Saturday, Oct. 2, 2021.

More than a thousand people gathered in Cleveland Saturday afternoon for the first Women’s March in Cleveland since the inauguration of President Joe Biden. The event, which joined more than 600 planned marches throughout the nation, started in Market Square before attendees marched to Carnegie Bridge. 

Speakers included Nina Turner, former Ohio senator; Kevin Kelley, president of Cleveland City Council; Delores Gray, Cleveland city councilwoman; and attendees expressed concerns over the recent abortion law in Texas, the viability of Roe v. Wade, economic inequality and discrimination. 

One of the main issues discussed at the event was the state of Roe v. Wade, with attendees voicing fears that the Supreme Court will no longer uphold the landmark 1973 decision that legalized abortion across the nation. 

One woman, who asked not to be named, held a sign reading “coat hanger abortion survivor 1968.” She tearfully explained that the possibility of young women losing access to safe abortions has forced her to finally share her story.

Women's March

A woman holds a sign that says "Coat hanger abortion survivor 1968" in Cleveland's Market Square during the Women's March on Saturday Oct. 2, 2021. 

“I made this sign because I had a coat hanger abortion done on me by my mother and uncle when I was 17,” she said. “My mother went to work and told me my uncle was coming over to do that and if I left I could take my clothes with me and not come back.” 

The abortion had failed and sent her to the hospital where doctors refused to perform surgery on her for hours due to her breaking the law. She expressed the fear that after 53 years, young women will once again have to go through what she did. 

“I’m here to say, ‘ask me how bad it hurt,’” she said, “It hurt to death. It hurt to death.” 

Another woman who asked not to be named shared those concerns. She had an abortion at the age of 16.

“Unfortunately, my daughters today do not have that choice,” she said. “They do not have the freedom to control their bodies and make those decisions that will affect them for the rest of their lives.” 

Nina Turner, who co-chaired Bernie Sanders’ 2020 presidential campaign, said it was important keep pressure in the movement for women’s rights. 

“In a representative democracy you must be in it to win it,” Turner told the crowd. 

The march got off to a rocky start due to a permit conflict, delaying it for more than an hour. Police spoke with Delores Gray, a co-organizer of the event and head of Brickhouse Women’s Wellness, asking to have the march moved to a different location. Cleveland Bazaar, a pop-up shopping event, held a permit for Market Square. 

Women's March

Police officers confront Delores Gray, a co-organizer of the Women's March Cleveland, over a permit issue on Saturday, Oct. 2, 2021.

“I had three women business owners drop out of the event today because they are afraid,” said Shannon Okey, the organizer of Cleveland Bazaar. 

“These are majority women business owners, it’s really kind of outrageous," Okey said.

Okey expressed worries of a large-scale march taking place where independent vendors were set up, citing the pandemic and possibility of theft. Despite her attempts to contact the Women’s March and police, both events were permitted to use the space. 

Another business owner, Narrin Carlberg, who operates Narrin Spice and Sauce, accosted the event for driving business away. 

“This is not helping us here at the market,” Carlberg said, “Customers can not go in, can not go out.”

Organizers of the march could not be reached for comment on the permit issue, but encouraged those in attendance to make a purchase at the market. 

Alton Northup is a reporter. Contact him at anorthu1@kent.edu

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