Manhattan anti-abortion marchers impeded by counterprotesters, ‘Joker’ movie set

Abortion rights advocates confronted a large crowd of anti-abortion demonstrators near Foley Square this past weekend.


Jason Alpert-Wisnia

Dozens gathered near Foley Square on March 25 for the International Gift of Life Walk, an anti-abortion march that marched downtown. (Jason Alpert-Wisnia for WSN)

Cora Snow, Deputy News Editor

A blockade of police officers divided dozens of protesters and counterprotesters at an anti-abortion march this past Saturday. Counterprotesters yelled, banged on scaffolding and used noisemakers across the street to drown out anti-abortion demonstrators as they gave speeches near Foley Square. Some anti-abortion protesters held signs reading “Pray and Act Against the Sin of Abortion,” and “Adoption not Abortion.” One held up a plastic fetus.

Only a few steps away was a film crew working on the upcoming sequel to the “Joker” movie. The sequel, titled “Joker: Folie à Deux,” was filming at the steps of one of the nearby courthouse buildings, which was originally intended as the location of the protest. Due to the shoot, protesters had to relocate to the intersection of Reade and Centre streets. The protest was organized by Personhood Education New York, a Christian anti-abortion group, and attended by members of other conservative organizations.

“These fools, they do it every year,” Jay Walkdy, a counterprotester, said. “And as it turns out, the Joker sequel was being filmed on the courthouse steps, and so they couldn’t even get there anyway.”

Also in the area, just a block away, were a gaggle of television cameras and reporters tensely awaiting any news about the potential indictment of former president Donald Trump outside the office of the Manhattan district attorney. Trump is facing possible criminal charges related to hush-money payments made to porn star Stormy Daniels in the lead up to the 2016 presidential election.

At the anti-abortion march, a youth marching band from St. Louis de Montfort Academy, a Pennsylvania boarding school run by the conservative nonprofit American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family, and Property, played church hymns as they walked. The band has participated in other anti-abortion marches in the past, including the March for Life in Washington, D.C.

Lawrence Schroedel, a Catholic friar who participated in the walk, said that many abortion rights protesters misunderstand abortions, and went on to describe abortions in a medically inaccurate fashion. Schroedel said that despite his anti-abortion views, he supports the First Amendment freedoms of the abortion rights activists who attended.

“We love them and appreciate them being here today, because one of the things we’re standing up for is freedom of speech,” Schroedel said. “We have our freedom of speech, and we respect theirs.”

One NYU student, who was a counterprotester at the rally and asked to remain anonymous due to fear for their personal safety, said that they are worried that New York City Mayor Eric Adams’ Christian beliefs could influence abortion policies in the city. Recently, Adams said that he does not believe in the separation of church and state, and that he disagrees with the Supreme Court’s 1962 decision to ban mandated prayer in public schools.

“People often talk about theocratic blowback in the U.S., but people only talk about the red states — people think it’s not happening here,” the student said. “Adams has said he doesn’t believe in [separating the] church and state, and has talked about introducing prayer into schools. We are not safe in this country. We need to be on the ground and fighting.”

Contact Cora Snow at [email protected].