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VOICES

Young People Rally in Support of Wisconsin Unions, Reproductive Justice

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People in Washington, D.C.'s Dupont Circle at the "Rally to Save the American Dream" rally in support of Wisconsin Union members.

CREDIT: M.V. Jantzen

On Saturday, young people took leading roles at two rallies at Dupont Circle in Washington, D.C., protesting against recently proposed plans that would cause hardship for working class Americans.

Around 1,500 people rallied to show support for public workers whose right to collective bargain is being challenged in Wisconsin, Ohio, and across the country, while a smaller group rallied to defend Title X funding for Planned Parenthood.

 “We’re scapegoating the little people,” says, Taylor Sappington, a freshman at George Washington University who is originally from Ohio who spoke in support of public workers at the D.C. rally Saturday. “We’re blaming teachers and firefighters for budget problems that are being caused by tax cuts and war.”

The rally was just one of over 50 actions around the country coordinated by moveon.org, Jobs With Justice, and other groups under the name “Rally to Save the American Dream.”(There was at least one rally in every state.)

Natalie Mamerow, who works for a charter school in D.C. and is the daughter of a teacher in Wisconsin, says she is frustrated with how Gov. Scott Walker (R) has dealt with the reaction to the proposed bill outlawing collective bargaining.

“For him to not be able to sit down and compromise is not the quality of a good leader,” she says. “That is the quality of a dictator.”

“It’s not a Wisconsin issue; it’s an American issus,” says Mamerow’s friend, Gabrielle Szienkier. “Collective bargaining is an American right.”

(Read more Campus Progress coverage of the budget situation in Wisconsin here and here.)

Hundreds also came out to support the funding for Planned Parenthood under the National Family Planning Program. The program, which funds family planning and prenatal care for low-income women, was cut in a proposed 2011-spending bill that was recently passed by House of Representatives.

Ironically, Title X funding actually prevents over 800,000 abortions, along with around 2 million unintended births annually, saving taxpayers money that would be spent on prenatal and other pregnancy care.

Heather Kangas, who helped organize the rally, says cutting the funding is “going to hurt lower income women who might not be able to afford birth control [without Title X].”

“We wanted to say we stand with [low and moderate income] women and we stand with Planned Parenthood,” she says.

“The role of youth is absolutely essential.” Kangas said, emphasizing, “it’s our future.”

Many of the rallies’ attendees came to support both causes.“It’s a really exciting time,” says Tom Judd, who came for both rallies and works at a reproductive health crisis hotline in D.C. “Because the workers, students, and all these people have not backed down, it’s forced a lot of people who would have otherwise said nothing or been on the fence about it be stronger [advocates of workers.]”

Judd’s optimism was reiterated by climate justice advocate Van Jones, who addressed the crown at the Rally to Save the American Dream.

“We are not going to let the hope die again on our watch.” Jones said. “It’s not going to happen.”

“We’re for liberty too,” Jones said toward the end of his speech, “[but we] heard the whole slogan. Liberty and justice for all.”

George Warner is a staff writer with Campus Progress.

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