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Students spar with anti-abortion demonstrators demanding ‘justice’ for fetuses

Jordyn Bailer | Assistant Photo Editor
Students smacked spoons against cooking pans and blasted music out of a speaker, attempting to drown out the anti-abortion protesters outside the Washington Surgi-Clinic.

More than two dozen students engaged in a raucous standoff with about 10 anti-abortion demonstrators affiliated with a group connected to the discovery of five fetuses last year during a protest outside a Foggy Bottom clinic that provides abortions Friday.

Students yelled, smacked spoons against cooking pans and blasted music out of a speaker in an attempt to drown out the anti-abortion protesters – members of the Progressive Anti-Abortion Uprising advocacy group – for about an hour outside the F Street Washington Surgi-Clinic. The demonstrators are calling for District officials to investigate the origin of the five fetuses that Metropolitan Police Department officers discovered last year in the D.C. home of anti-abortion activist and PAAU leader Lauren Handy, who was indicted with nine others for using chain and rope to blockade the Foggy Bottom clinic in 2020.

Juniors Ella Marsh and Dina Grossman were the first students attempting to stifle the anti-abortion protesters’ chants at about 2:30 p.m., clanging spoons against pans while staring down the activists with three MPD officers standing between the two groups. The anti-abortion demonstrators held up signs of fetuses and shouted that abortions are “racist,” “sexist,” “ableist” and “ageist.”

“I just can’t imagine a person trying to get health care and then somebody standing in your way telling you you’re a murderer when you’re just trying to take care of yourself and your future and your family,” Marsh said while thumping her pan. “I just feel like we need to drown them out somehow, so that’s why I got my pot and pan.”

Other students brought a black cube speaker onto the street, blasting music from the device at high volume to muffle the sounds of the anti-abortion protest. The spat continued for about 45 minutes as more than 20 students joined the counter-protest. An anti-abortion demonstrator responded to the rising counter-protest clamor from the students by pulling out a blue electric guitar from a nearby wagon and playing the instrument while singing into a megaphone.

Melanie Salazar, a member of the PAAU group that organized the protest, said the protesters are demanding D.C. officials investigate the discovery of five fetuses that MPD found in Handy’s Southeast D.C. home last year.

“We’re trying to fight and demand justice for the five,” Salazar said.

MPD spokesperson Brianna Burch said in an email that the case is currently under investigation but declined to comment on its status.

Salazar said the demonstrators did not intend to start a “back and forth” with the students.

The dispute continued for about an hour until the anti-abortion group left the scene at around 3:10 p.m., claiming it was the end of their scheduled protest.

Police officers arrested seven protesters associated with PAAU Thursday for blocking Independence Avenue during a demonstration calling for “justice” for the fetuses, according to the Washington Post.

The confrontation comes after the Supreme Court’s decision to end federal abortion protections in June and as states across the United States outlaw the practice. Patients seeking abortions have since flocked to D.C. for medical care where it is protected.

Ramani Wilson, a senior studying international affairs, said she controlled the speaker playing loud music to “tune out” the anti-abortion protesters as more students joined the counter-demonstration.

“A community, and it’s sort of like a united front, is really unexpected, but it’s beautiful to see,” Wilson said.

Zach Blackburn contributed reporting.

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