A dad climbed a bridge to protest the Supreme Court’s decision

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From a distance, the protester who stood on top of the Frederick Douglass Memorial Bridge in DC on Friday appeared a speck.

But as the hours passed and social media posts started appearing online, he came into focus and soon this became clear: He was a dad concerned about his children’s futures.

“Okay, I’ve got a life. A job, kids I love, there’s pretty much any place I’d rather be than the top of this 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 so do you! So let’s rise up, nonviolently, for Abortion rights!”

A man climbed to the top of the Frederick Douglass Bridge in DC on June 24 following the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down the right to abortion,. (Video: Sandy Cowell)

The Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade drew many people to protest across the nation’s capital on Friday, but none caused a scene as attention-grabbing as Reichstadter. He scaled the sky-high arches of the bridge in the morning and remained on that precarious perch as police and onlookers gathered below. He stayed there through the night into Saturday. When he finally came down around 1 pm, he was taken into police custody.

While Reichstadter’s actions may have been extreme, his reasons for taking them are relatable: He’s a parent who is worried about the country we are creating for the next generation. I spoke to the 42-year-old over the phone as he stood on that bridge, and he talked about his two children, a girl and a boy.

“I’ve got a 12-year-old daughter, and I can’t just sit back while her future is taken away or all her rights are stripped away,” he said.

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

“They’re my life,” he said. “I would gladly give my life for them. It’s mind-boggling to me that fathers are able to look their daughters in the eye and go about their daily lives while their rights are under attack. … Love is not a noun. It’s a verb. And part of that means stepping out of your comfort and defending the rights of your loved ones when they come under attack.”

Reichstadter said he started climbing the bridge at about 9:30 am and planned to stay as long as his body would allow. One challenge to the length of time he could remain up there came as soon as he reached the top. He opened his bag and his water bottle tumbled out and fell to the bottom of the bridge.

That mishap left him without water as he sat without shade in the sun and into the night. It also left him thinking about how losing that vital resource was not unlike the country’s effort to secure women’s rights and address the climate crisis. He described both opportunities as slipping away, out of reach.

His hope for climbing the bridge, he said, was that he might get more people thinking about and engaging in nonviolent civil resistance. He hoped to compel people who were passively supporting abortion rights to take action.

“We think of peaceful protesting as holding a sign, doing these one-day marches,” he said. “That’s great, but it doesn’t do the business. What does the business is people nonviolently disrupting the function of government, the function of the economy, day after day after day, until their needs are met.”

From the bridge, he posted on different social media platforms, sharing his thoughts and dizzying views from up high.

“If I can make it to the top of this ever-loving bridge, I know you can make it into the street!” Hey tweeted on Friday. “Let’s shut it down nonviolently day after day after day till our rights are protected. I’ll be up here, much love to you all!”

On Saturday morning, huh tweeted: “Over night the bodies and rights of tens of millions of women fell under the power of cruel and violent men, who would see them charged with murder for exercising the right to their own bodies. This is an abomination.”

Reichstadter said he came to the nation’s capital from Miami after the Supreme Court’s decision was leaked weeks ago. As a form of protest, on June 6, he wrapped a bike lock around his neck and secured it to the fence in front of the Supreme Court. The police eventually cut him loose and arrested him. Officials with the two law enforcement agencies that handled the case, the Office of the Attorney General and the US attorney’s office, said prosecutors did not file charges against him.

Documentarian Ford Fischer filmed Reichstadter locking himself to that fence and interviewed him before his arrest.

In one video Fischer posted online of the interview, Reichstadter expresses support of the organization Rise up 4 Abortion Rights and explains how the color green has roots in the abortion rights movement in Latin American. (From the bridge, he hung a green banner and used a flare to release green smoke.)

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

“Really, I’m not, I’m not some radical dude,” he says. “I’m just a dad, 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 dads. Really, I just can’t believe it. So that’s why I’ve got 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 had mentioned to him that he might hang a banner from a bridge, but Fischer didn’t expect him to pick one that, with a slip, could kill him.

Watching nervously from below the bridge, Fischer called Reichstadter several times to talk to him.

During one call, he told Reichstadter he hoped he was being safe.

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

Peter Hermann and Omari Daniels contributed reporting to this column.

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