By Corinne Saunders | Outer Banks Voice on September 26, 2022
Speakers hailing from as close as Dare County and as far away as Charlotte and New York shared messages encouraging civil engagement and hope for the state’s future at Rally for Our Freedoms on Sept. 25 at Dowdy Park in Nags Head.
The Dare County Democratic Party, Democratic Women of Dare, Dare County Progressive Caucus, Indivisible OBX and Stronger NC OBX jointly hosted the rally where speakers encouraged voting for candidates who back abortion access; the LGBTQ+ community; education; and democracy in this midterm election. Estimates put the crowd in the vicinity of 100 people.
“We are all here to show that we stand for freedom and democracy in North Carolina,” said Rachelle Salo, senior regional organizer for North and South Carolina for the Indivisible Project. “We do not want to repeat the injustices of the past.”
Many rally attendees explained that they were spurred to attend by the U.S. Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade in June. “I don’t believe in having our rights reduced,” said Margaret Saunders, a Manteo resident. “We’ve been fighting for forty years to have them increased.”
Xavier Richardson, a 22-year-old man from Powell’s Point, attended to support women. He held a sign stating, “boys will be boys feminists.”
“I want women to have the right to do what they want to with their own body,” he said. “That’s my main reason for being here.”
Event speaker Victoria Pittman, the community organizer for Planned Parenthood Votes! South Atlantic, encouraged attendees to see the far-reaching consequences of the upcoming election.
“Make no mistake, the impact of this decision goes beyond abortion,” Pittman said. “This is about who has power over you; who has the authority to make decisions for you.”
Anti-choice political candidates have stated they want a full abortion ban in North Carolina, Pittman noted, meaning this election is crucial. She invited attendees to visit the informational tables and sign up to assist U.S. Senate candidate Cheri Beasley and local pro-choice candidates in their campaigns, as well as to donate to Carolinaabortionfund.org.
Jessica Fearns, a candidate for Dare County Board of Education, encouraged people to turn off national, polarizing news and find commonalities with their neighbors in this unique place. This community is “filled with compassion and love” and neighbors who help each other in storm aftermath, she said. “It’s the type of place where kids can get a free helmet to honor a local schoolgirl who lost her life riding her bike home from school.”
Fearns described how the community fundraised $10,000 to support a local librarian in caring for her ailing mother; how local artists created a mural to honor a mother and son lost in a house fire; and how a distillery made and distributed free hand sanitizer during a national shortage.
“Polarizing, extreme political conspiracy has no place here,” Fearns said. “It has no place in our schools, and it certainly has no place on our school board. We must vote in November for sensible, fair, honest local candidates who will move our community forward.”
Barbara Gaskins, Democratic candidate for U.S. House of Representatives for North Carolina’s 3rd Congressional District, also spoke about forward rather than backward movement, and she voiced her respect for the daughter of her opponent, incumbent Republican Greg Murphy.
“I would like to take a minute to honor Greg Murphy’s daughter,” Gaskins said. “Caroline used her voice to speak out regarding her sexual assault and outrage regarding the Supreme Court’s decision through a TikTok in July. It took a huge amount of courage to do this, to stand up against your own parent, but that’s what it takes sometimes.”
Gaskins shared that sexual assault occurs nationally every 68 seconds and called abortion “a health care issue that is between that person and their doctor; no one else.” She also spoke to the need for “better solutions” to prevent unwanted pregnancies in the first place, such as education, access to contraceptives and support for mental health issues.
“We must also understand that restricting abortion systematically ensures the continuation of cycles of poverty and hopelessness,” she said. “Those that can afford to travel are inconvenienced, but it is literally a life sentence for those who cannot.”