A father climbed a bridge to protest the Supreme Court decision

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From a distance, the protester standing on DC’s Frederick Douglass Memorial Bridge on Friday appeared like a smudge.

But as the hours ticked by and social media posts surfaced online, focus shifted to him and it soon became clear: he was a father worried about his children’s future.

“Okay, I have a life. A job, kids I love, there’s pretty much any place I’d rather be than the top of that damn bridge,” Guido Reichstadter Posted on twitter. “But I have a responsibility to those I love – to step out, stand up and defend their rights. And you too! So let’s stand up non-violently for abortion rights!”

A man climbed to the top of the Frederick Douglass Bridge in DC on June 24 after the Supreme Court ruled to abolish abortion rights. (Video: Sandy Cowell)

Overturn the Supreme Court decision Roe v. calf drew crowds to the capital on Friday to protest, but none caused such an attention-grabbing scene as Reichstadter. He scaled the sky-high arches of the bridge in the morning and stayed on that precarious pole as police officers and onlookers gathered below. He stayed there all night until Saturday.

While Reichstadter’s actions may have been extreme, his reasons for doing so are understandable: He’s a parent concerned about the land we’re building for the next generation. I spoke to the 42 year old on the phone as he stood on this bridge and he spoke about his two children, a girl and a boy.

“I have a 12-year-old daughter and I can’t just sit back and have her future taken away or all her rights taken away from her,” he said.

Like many parents, he would do anything for his children, he said.

“You are my life,” he said. “I would gladly give my life for her. I find it amazing that fathers can look their daughters in the eye and go about their daily lives while their rights are being violated. … Love is not a noun. It’s a verb. And part of it means stepping out of your comfort zone and defending the rights of your loved ones when they’re under attack.”

Reichstadter said he began boarding the bridge around 9:30 a.m. and planned to stay as long as his body would allow. A challenge to the time he could stay up there came once he reached the summit. He opened his bag and his water bottle tumbled out and fell to the floor of the bridge.

This mishap left him without water as he sat without shade in the sun and well into the night. It also made him reflect on how the loss of this vital resource has not been dissimilar to the country’s efforts to secure women’s rights and tackle the climate crisis. He described both opportunities as slipping away, unattainable.

His hope of scaling the bridge, he said, is that he could get more people thinking about and getting involved in nonviolent civil resistance. He hoped to compel people who were passively campaigning for abortion rights to act.

“We look at peaceful protest as holding a sign and these one-day marches,” he said. “It’s great, but it doesn’t bring any business. What the business does is people who nonviolently disrupt the functioning of government, the functioning of business, day in and day out, until their needs are met.”

From the bridge, he posted on various social media platforms, sharing his thoughts and dizzying views from above.

“If I can make it to the top of that ever loving bridge, I know you can make it onto the road!” he tweeted on Friday. “Let’s close it down non-violently day by day until our rights are protected. I’ll be up here, love to you all!”

On Saturday morning he tweeted: “Overnight the bodies and rights of tens of millions of women fell under the power of cruel and violent men who saw them accused of murder for exercising the right over their own bodies. This is an abomination.”

Reichstadter said he arrived in the nation’s capital from Miami after the Supreme Court decision was leaked weeks ago. On June 6, in protest, he wrapped a bicycle lock around his neck and attached it to the fence outside the Supreme Court. The police eventually cut him free and arrested him. Officials from the two law enforcement agencies handling the case, the Attorney General’s Office and the US Attorney’s Office, said prosecutors had not filed any charges against him.

Documentary filmmaker Ford Fischer filmed Reichstadter clinging to this fence and interviewed him before his arrest.

In a video that Fischer posted online about the interview, Reichstadter expresses his support for the organization Raise 4 abortion rights and explains how the color green is rooted in the abortion rights movement in Latin America. (From the bridge he hung a green banner and used a torch to release green smoke.)

In another video that Fischer posted, Reichstadter addresses why he came to Washington.

“Really, I’m not, I’m not a radical guy,” he says. “I’m just a father and I can’t sit back while my daughter’s rights are taken away. It’s just unbelievable to me that the streets aren’t already full of thousands of fathers. Really, I just can’t believe it. That’s why I have to be here. I can’t be anywhere else It’s just not an option for me.”

When Fischer heard on Friday that a person was standing on a DC bridge, he knew it was Reichstadter. He said Reichstadter mentioned to him that he might hang a banner on a bridge, but Fischer didn’t expect him to pick one that could kill him with one slip.

Fischer watched nervously from below the bridge and called Reichstadter several times to speak to him.

When he called, he told Reichstadter he hoped he was safe.

“The truth of the matter,” Reichstadter replied, “is that none of us is safe.”

Peter Hermann contributed reporting to this column.

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