Protesters by the hundreds marched up State Street during Santa Babrara’s Women's March on Sunday.
Protesters by the hundreds marched up State Street during Santa Barbara’s Women's March on Sunday. Credit: Serena Guentz / Noozhawk photo

Hundreds of people of all ages and genders gathered at Santa Barbara’s De la Guerra Plaza on Sunday, then marched up State Street together for the annual Women’s March.

The demonstration was held concurrently with marches in Santa Maria and across the nation in support of women’s rights.

Sunday would have marked 50 years since the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark Roe v. Wade ruling that legalized abortion nationwide.

Last June, the court reversed itself in another case, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, sending the contentious abortion issue back to the states to decide.

“We should be celebrating today, on the 50th anniversary of Roe v. Wade,” said Paula Lopez Ochoa, president of the Santa Barbara Women’s Political Committee. “Instead, we are marking, we are mourning its loss.

“More than that, today we gather in numbers — not just here in De la Guerra Plaza, Santa Barbara — we gather all over this country to show that this is bigger than Roe.

“Today, we put our politicians on notice — if you come for our families, if you come for our freedoms, if you come for our rights, you come for our future, and we are coming for your seat.”

While abortion and contraceptive use is protected in California, since the Dobbs ruling abortions have been banned — completely or partially — or are unavailable in 18 states.

Other speakers before the march Sunday included Assemblyman Gregg Hart, D-Santa Barbara; Goleta City Councilwoman Luz Reyes-Martín; and Santa Barbara City College trustee Charlotte Gullap-Moore.

  • Assemblyman Gregg Hart, D-Santa Barbara, expressed solidarity with the marchers.
  • Women's March
  • Women's March
  • Women's March

“We’re here to raise our voices in solidarity with the millions of other marchers across the nation who are demanding the restoration of women’s reproductive freedom,” Hart said. “As a feminist man, I stand here today in our collective work to ensure gender equity as an ally.

“I want to take this opportunity to call on all men to be part of ending toxic masculinity, to be part of ending patriarchy, to stand up for women’s reproductive freedoms. … If you’re not part of the solution, then get out of the way.”

This is the seventh year of the nationwide Women’s March movement, with the first event organized in 2017 to protest then-President Donald Trump’s inauguration. 

Speakers shared how the Women’s March is about more than just women’s reproductive rights, but also for LGBTQ+ rights, gender equity and human rights as a whole.

“We have to understand that every time someone tries to access a Planned Parenthood and is harassed, every time a trans person is murdered or a young nonbinary person is misgendered, every time an athlete is required to strip down and prove their gender through an examination, every time that gender is defined and controlled from a source outside of ourselves individually — it is an attempt to control us collectively,” said Kristin Flickinger, executive director of Pacific Pride Foundation.

During Sunday’s event, Hart and Reyes-Martín held a moment of silence for the victims of a mass shooting that occurred in Monterey Park on Saturday night.

At least 10 people were killed and another 10 wounded after a Lunar New Year celebration at a dance hall there.

The suspect, identified by Los Angeles County Sheriff Robert Luna as 72-year-old Huu Can Tran, died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound on Sunday morning.

“We deserve to celebrate without fear,” Reyes-Martín said in a statement on behalf of the Planned Parenthood affiliates of California. “This tragic and senseless incident is also maddening. We all deserve to live a life free from gun violence.”

After hearing from the speakers, demonstrators marched from De la Guerra Plaza, up State Street, and back with a variety of different handmade signs and chanting phrases such as “Women, life, freedom,” and “Women’s rights are human rights.”

“This is bigger than Roe,” Reyes-Martín told Noozhawk. “We have a lot of work to do to restore and expand access.

“We are thrilled that Prop. 1 in California passed, but we know that there are efforts to go after medication abortion and that impacts the entire country, including California, so it’s important for people to not give up, keep fighting — we’ve got a lot of work to do.”

On Saturday, demonstrators rallied at Santa Maria’s Minami Park before marching through the community in the Santa Maria Valley Women’s March.  

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Serena Guentz, Noozhawk Staff Writer

Noozhawk staff writer Serena Guentz can be reached at sguentz@noozhawk.com.