JACKSON, Mississippi - July 18 -
Hundreds of reproductive rights supporters gathered at Smith Street Park in Jackson, Mississippi, on Saturday, July 15 for "Reproductive Freedom Summer: Providing a Peaceful Presence." The rally is one of many events planned to counter the actions of Operation Save America, formerly Operation Rescue, and their push to close the lone remaining clinic that provides abortions for Mississippi women. "Women in Jackson are encouraged by the demonstration of support," said Jenni Smith, of Unity Mississippi. "There is a real progressive presence in Jackson and across Mississippi fighting for women."
A handful of anti-abortion extremists disrupted the event but were unable to stop the speakers from delivering the rallying message to women's rights supporters. After the keynote speech from Kim Gandy, President of the National Organization for Women, police were notified about a suspicious package and began to move people to the edge of the park. For nearly two hours, activists waited for further direction from the police.
The bomb squad finally arrived and detonated the small suitcase, but did not take the suitcase and left most of the contents behind, including empty prescription bottles.
Despite such threats, NOW and other women's rights activists will continue our scheduled events to deliver the message of reproductive justice for women in Mississippi. NOW understands and is encouraged by law enforcement reports of an ongoing investigation to determine who is responsible for placing the suitcase in the park's trash container.
"What happened at the rally speaks to the violence centered around abortion clinics in this country. It's not unusual for a clinic to be shut down during the day because of suspicious packages, bomb threats and trespassing," according to Nancy Kohsin-Kintigh, Field Organizer for the National Clinic Access Project of the Feminist Majority Foundation.
"We are calling on law enforcement to keep the women of Jackson safe. It is outrageous that anti-abortion activists endanger the lives of Jacksonians in order to further their cause. The individuals responsible for this act of domestic terrorism in this post 9/11 era must be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law," said Michelle Colon, President of the Jackson Area chapter of the National Organization for Women.
"That any organization would come into Jackson, Mississippi and create fear and terror surrounding reproductive rights is of concern to the community activists," says Shannon Reaze, a reproductive rights activist from Jackson.