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Local congressional candidate one of 180-plus arrested in peaceful D.C. sit-in protesting Roe v. Wade overturn

By CJ HADDAD - | Jul 7, 2022

Dr. Cindy Banyai, a Democratic nominee for the 19th District Congressional seat that represents most of Lee County, joined hundreds of protestors on June 30 in a planned sit-in on the street in front of the U.S. Supreme Court. She took part in a wheelchair due to a broken leg and was among those issued a $50 citation for obstructing traffic. Photo provided

A candidate for congress in the upcoming elections was arrested in Washington D.C. last week in a stance against the recent Supreme Court rulings overturning Roe V. Wade.

Dr. Cindy Banyai, a Democratic nominee for the 19th District Congressional seat that represents most of Lee County, joined hundreds of protestors on June 30 in a planned sit-in on the street in front of the U.S. Supreme Court.

The rally, which was coordinated by a national organization, the Center for Popular Democracy, resulted in the peaceful arrest of more than 180 individuals. The gathering was made up of those in opposition to the Supreme Court’s support of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization and its overturn of Roe v. Wade, which in 1973 invoked federal constitutional protection for abortion rights.

Banyai said she felt compelled to take part in the historic sit-in because “Like so many women across the United States, I was shocked and upset when the Dobbs ruling finally did drop out of the Supreme Court.”

The Supreme Court on June 24 ruled in favor of the Mississippi law that bans most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, and found that Roe v. Wade had been wrongfully decided stating “The Constitution does not confer a right to abortion; Roe and Casey (a related abortion rights case) are overruled; and the authority to regulate abortion is returned to the people and their elected representatives.”

“I had been very active here locally making sure that people in our community who felt their rights had been stripped from them had a voice and knew that they had a champion in me. When I saw that there was a planned protest in Washington D.C. outside of the Supreme Court, I thought it was a great opportunity to really take my body and my actions to put myself on the line for these rights that have been stripped from us. To be on the front lines of the fight to protect our rights as women and body autonomy.”

Banyai, along with several hundred others, sat at the intersection of Constitution and First in defiance of police orders. Banyai said protesters peacefully chanted and sang until Capitol Police, after a few warnings, came to arrest them one by one. Banyai is still in a wheelchair with a broken leg stemming from an incident where she jumped off a boat to save her daughter from being swept out by the tide in May. She said she was taken into police custody without resistance and cooperated with their processing of the infraction at a park across the street. She remained in D.C. until the following day where she paid a $50 citation for obstructing traffic.

Banyai said it was inspiring to see the gathering of those wanting to stand up for their beliefs. The day started at the church behind the Supreme Court where Banyai said many told stories and encouraged the fight for rights.

“We began to march and everyone was told what to do: to not fight with police officers and to cooperate,” Banyai said. “Capitol Police were great. They were made aware of our sit-in on the street and were supportive and helpful of us and actually protected us on our march down (the street).”

Banyai said there were thousands of individuals walking from the church towards the Supreme Court building, and that some decided not to take part in the civil disobedience part of the day — sitting in the street.

Banyai said she was being pushed in her wheelchair and was assisted by another protestor in getting to the street intersection.

“I came to D.C. to show my commitment to making access to abortion care law, as well as marriage equality and access to contraception, which is also threatened by the Dobbs ruling,” Banyai said. “Enough is enough when it comes back to rolling back our rights.

“We knew that there were consequences. But I was very proud and impressed (with the organization of the ever). This was a political action; people could raise their voice and express their First Amendment rights.”

Banyai said she would be an advocate for women’s rights, body autonomy, and separation of church and state if voted in the upcoming election.

“I will make sure that the government is making sure everybody has the access to the care that they need when they need it and they have the equality under the law to demand such.

“I’m a fighter. And traveling to D.C. was an opportunity for me to really put myself on the line for these rights in a physical way. It’s not just talk. When I get to Congress, I will work to ensure that we have in our federal law, equal access to healthcare, and medical privacy, and the ability to make the decision around abortion care when its necessary between that person and their provider, because I believe that’s what freedom really means.”

–Connect with this reporter on Twitter: @haddad_cj