On International Women’s Day, Milwaukee says, “Hands off our bodies, hands off our families”
Milwaukee, WI – Neither the snow nor the rekindled Saint Patrick’s Day parade was enough to keep 100 people from celebrating International Women’s Day with the Milwaukee International Women’s Day (IWD) Coalition this past Saturday, March 11. Attendees gathered at Dontre Hamilton Park and marched through the streets towards Village Church, where endorsing organizations tabled and delivered speeches.
The theme of this year’s International Women’s Day was “Hands Off Our Bodies, Hands Off Our Families.” It sought to highlight the connection between the struggles around reproductive rights and against police crimes. After the overturning of Roe v. Wade, abortions have become outlawed in Wisconsin. Moreover, the violence against women, especially Black trans women, has seen a sharp, troubling spike. Amidst these oppressive conditions, members of the Milwaukee IWD Coalition came together to organize and fight back. As Carly Klein, Reproductive Justice Action – Milwaukee (RJA-M), said, “We are not going to stop showing up on these streets until every person has access to bodily autonomy and safe and sustainable communities.”
The fights for bodily autonomy and safe and sustainable communities free of police terror have been and are being led by women in Milwaukee. Speaking on behalf of the Freedom Road Socialist Organization, Nadezhda Young mentioned this characteristic of the organization. Young said, “All around me are women leading strikes in their unions, fighting police crimes in the streets and city halls, fighting for the rights of immigrants, LGBTQ people, fighting for peace, clean air, and reproductive justice.”
Lo Cross, co-chair of the Milwaukee Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression (MAARPR) expressed a similar message. Cross said, “It is the leadership of women and families that are most present in the struggle for community control. It is women and families who lead grassroots organizations that are consolidating community power for lasting change. It will be women and families leading and strengthening the strategic alliance we need to take back our power and create systems made for the community and by the community.”
These struggles are also present on Milwaukee’s university campuses. Patricia Fish, who emceed and spoke on behalf of the UW-Milwaukee Students for Democratic Society (SDS), discussed the issues on campus. Fish stated, “We want the police to be kicked off campus completely and replaced with a security team and trained people who actually know how to handle sexual assault cases on campus.” The police on campus are not handling these kinds of cases and cases of mental health in safe ways for students. Fish emphasized this point about the police harming students and brought up the campaign to drop the charges for the Tampa 4.
In the workplace, these struggles also need to be carried out. As Piper Hogan, who spoke on behalf of the Young Workers Committee (YWC), made clear, the cause of women’s liberation and LGBTQ liberation is in the interest of the entire working class. Hogan continued by stating that to fight for this liberation we need our unions.
“More than anything,” Hogan said, “we need to bring back class struggle unionism. If we aren’t fighting, we are surrendering. Our task is to forge our unions into weapons of class struggle so that we can make some real gains.”
Beyond a celebration, International Women’s Day in Milwaukee this year was a call to action. Conditions may be disheartening, but the members of the Milwaukee IWD Coalition all spoke about the importance of organizing and fighting back. Only through these joint efforts can women and LGBTQ people be free in their communities, on campus, and in the workplace. It was another successful IWD celebration, and in Milwaukee, the people are ready for an even better celebration in 2024.