Lexington residents are serious about women’s rights

On May 10, students and community members raised arms in protest regarding the overturn of Roe v. Wade.

Tyler Palicia

Students and community members lined up on Lexington’s Main Street for the protest on May 10, 2022. Photo by Tyler Palicia

Over 150 angry people have assembled in front of the business office at 2 South Main Street, and I am one of them. All across the country, the streets are filled with others like us, people who have been outraged since a leaked Supreme Court draft opinion revealed that the court is poised to overturn Roe v. Wade. A local activist organization called 50 Ways Rockbridge has organized this particular event in response.

My girlfriend stands above me atop a stone wall, holding a sign above her head that says KEEP ABORTION SAFE AND LEGAL. She is one of many protesters standing on the wall, and the crowd spills over onto the lawn and sidewalk as well.

Mirabi McLeod, who runs Mountain Momma Catering, is as passionate as any of us. “I’ve been going to these rallies for over 50 years and I’m surprised it’s still an issue. It’s getting old,” McLeod says. “Rich people will keep getting safe abortions for their mistresses and daughters, but this Supreme Court decision will disproportionately affect people of color.” I agree with Ms. McLeod. The rich, most of whom are white, will always be able to afford top of the line healthcare, even if they have to break the law to get it. However, women who aren’t as privileged — many of whom subsist on low-incomes and live in rural places like Rockbridge County where healthcare is less accessible — will still seek out abortions if Roe is overturned, but there’s a higher chance they won’t survive them.


People of all ages attended the event. Photo by Tyler Palicia

As I finish speaking with Ms. McLeod, I see someone I recognize coming up East Washington Street. It’s Michael Toomey, a senior at W&L. He stops and eyes us with great displeasure, so I make my way over and ask if he’d like to be quoted, to which he responds, “I think abortion is murder. I’d like to see you draw a line where it becomes a life. Is it four seconds out of the womb? Is it five?” I didn’t bother to tell him that post-birth abortion isn’t what’s being disputed.

As I return to the crowd, an old man far down the line tries to start a chant

My body, my choice! My body, my choice!

The woman standing next to me gives a look that says, At least his heart is in the right place.

By now our numbers have mounted and we’ve begun to attract attention. A young boy repeatedly rides up and down the opposing sidewalk on a bicycle, a Confederate flag fluttering in the air behind him. This is where I should mention that many of the protesters here are people of color. But the child doesn’t manage to get a rise out of a single person. Later on, a few drivers honk their horns in support and a bearded motorcyclist zips past with his fist raised in solidarity, so I guess it all evens out.

By now the energy of the protest has reached its zenith. Finn Connor, a member of W&L’s junior class, strides up and down the sidewalk shouting chants into a megaphone

Right-to-Life your names a lie,

You don’t care if women die!

and many of the people around me pound the air with their fists as they let voices soar. Finn calls, we respond

Women’s rights under attack, what do we do? — Stand up, fight back!

A woman beats her tambourine and we all keep rhythm

Hey hey mister, get your laws off my sister

Attendees held signs expressing their frustration. Photo by Tyler Palicia.

Five cops watch us from across the street as we shout our chants. Later, Lexington Police Chief Angela Greene tells me they were there for “visibility and deterrence,” which I believe. The police give us plenty of space to demonstrate, and no one seems to express any discomfort with their presence. Their nonchalance could be related to the fact that the gray haired and wrinkled protesters outnumber the millennials and Gen Z’s by about 3 to 1 (a rough estimate), which is why I think the organizers missed an opportunity by not advertising the event better to W&L’s student body. That is my only real criticism of the event.

The crowd breaks up after about an hour. The streets buzz with excited chatter as everyone goes their separate ways. I feel fresh and uplifted having briefly exorcized my political frustrations. It’s not everyday that I ditch class to stand on the street and shout at passing cars, but today made me think I should do it more often.

If you’re also interested in defending women’s rights through local activism, you can get involved by reaching out to the event organizers at [email protected].