By LOGAN RIPLEY
A sea of pink-clad protestors spread throughout the parking lot of Planned Parenthood-Upper Hudson on Saturday in an effort to rally against recent attempts to stop federal funding to the clinics across the country.
The “pink out,” titled RESIST, was planned by members of the local Planned Parenthood, and also five women who came up with the idea to spark change in the surrounding community.
Sonia Sandoval, one of the event planners, spoke in the frigid 30-degree afternoon about the huge amount of support and how the rally was embraced by many from the start.
“It really started from thinking that we needed to do something for ourselves,” said Sandoval. “We needed to gather together and stand up for each other and make sure that it’s a great grassroot movement that starts from the bottom up.”
The movement gained support fast, many clicking to the Facebook page created by the charismatic women.
“Within days it had a thousand people interested in coming,” said Chelly Hegan, president and CEO of Upper-Hudson Planned Parenthood.
Hegan explained how the women reached out to her, wanting to conduct a counter-protest to the anti-abortion rallies across the country. But after discussion, they came to consider this option instead.
“Counter-protests don’t do a lot other than make a lot of people angry,” said Hegan. “So [we said], let’s do something more positive.”
She went on to suggest Albany as a location for the positive rally, choosing the location at Upper-Hudson on Central Avenue to make their strides.
Using the means of Planned Parenthood, along with the Facebook page, they reached out to many. Over 4,000 people clicked “interested” on their Facebook event and 1,000 said they would attend.
“I think we would have had an even crazier turnout if it wasn’t for the snow, but the turnout has just been really amazing,” said Rose Huttner, one of the five who propelled the event.
Located at 855 Central Ave., you could see people filing into the lot, signs in hand, covered from head to toe in pink. Signs of all varieties were raised across the parking lot, from those promoting political memes to women’s rights.
The happy, fun and empowering emotions in the crowd added the flavor for an amazing atmosphere.
“Anyone can make a sign. It allows everybody to have their say, and it is a really easy way for everyone to get involved,” said Huttner. “I think that one of the goals of this event is to help activate community members and help empower community members to stand up and take political action on their own, and I think sign making is actually a really important part of that.”
Hegan also alluded to the fact that this protest was not just for women but for the men who support Planned Parenthood. Many men were in attendance, with their friends, wives and mothers supporting them.
Eric Tkaczyk heard about the event from the local news, and decided to come support the movement.
“I’m here having a good time, supporting a cause that I feel deeply about,” said Tkaczyk, who has lived in the Albany area for 30 years. “I think about all the women in my life, it brings some deep feelings, and I’m here to support them.”
Thirty deep and looking on from the back of the crowd, Tkaczyk was reflective.
“I think it’s great, you can hear the cheers, and people’s emotions are in the right place in terms of giving their opinion on an important topic,” said Tkaczyk. “And as we go forward I think the right ideas are going to come to the top and we will move forward.”
The hundreds in attendance were having a great time, dancing to the songs played on the speakers, sung by women to empower women.
“I think people are getting ready and are saying, I have to fight for this right now,” said Emily Bryan, one of the main members of the event planning crew.
Bryan continued on to talk about how the people know what they want, and what they need to happen.
“I am so excited for all the people here. This is an amazing event and we just gotta keep on fighting,” said Bryan.
The event lasted from 2:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. and included presentations by elected officials, including Albany Mayor Kathy M. Sheehan, Assembly member Pat Fahy and Congressman Paul Tonko.
Hegan, who was a vital part in organizing this community event, spoke about the need for this funding and the true message being presented Saturday.
“The thing that’s really important here in New York State is that defunding Planned Parenthood basically means taking the option of going to Planned Parenthood away from women who have Medicaid,” said Hegan. “What we’re here about is making sure Planned Parenthood stays funded.”