Over 700 people gathered in Gainesville’s Bo Diddley Plaza on Saturday for the North Central FL Bans Off Our Bodies March & Rally. Despite the successful turnout, allegations were levied against Danielle Hawk, Democratic candidate for U.S. House District 3, for disrupting the logistical planning of the women’s march.
Since 1973, Roe v. Wade has federally protected the right to an abortion during the first trimester of pregnancy, granted by the right to privacy interpreted in the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
Across the country, women’s rights advocates were spurred into action when a leaked Supreme Court majority opinion draft by Justice Samuel Alito indicated the Court plans to overturn Roe v. Wade. Alito argues Roe v. Wade was “exceptionally weak” and “egregiously wrong” — though the draft decision is by no means final.
Many have expressed discontent with the possibility of losing federal protection of abortions, including residents of North Central Florida. Saturday’s women’s march was organized by Planned Parenthood and a variety of sponsors from the community.
Rachel Wolfrey, the lead organizer of the march and field director for Florida Forward Coalition, was pleased with the attendance.
“We had over 700 people come out today and I’m so proud of all the people I worked with,” Wolfrey said.
While the march may have been a success for attendees, leading Gainesville women’s rights advocates clashed behind the scenes in the week leading up to the march.
The last Gainesville women’s march, held in October 2021, was organized by Danielle Hawk with the assistance of Wolfrey and many others. Hawk is now a candidate to challenge Republican Rep. Kat Cammack for her seat in the U.S. House representing Florida’s 3rd Congressional District, which includes Gainesville and Ocala.
According to Wolfrey, Hawk reached out to her early last week to ask if she could table at Saturday’s march as a candidate.
“I said that we had a planning meeting of all the organizers and no one was really comfortable with having any candidates tabling,” Wolfrey said.
Wolfrey said she made it clear that Hawk and her campaign team were still welcome at the march and that they could petition in the crowd and pass out fliers. However, all candidates would be prohibited from tabling.
Shortly after the discussion, Wolfrey and her team found themselves locked out of an essential planning Google document for the march. Hawk had created the original Google spreadsheet when she organized the October march, so she had the power to prevent others from accessing it, Wolfrey said.
“This was such a big deal because all of the information that we had planned was on this spreadsheet and we had four days to pull it together,” Wolfrey said.
When it became apparent that the spreadsheet could not be accessed again without Hawk’s permission, multiple organizers began to reach out to notify her of the issue.
“I am not one to make assumptions but would like to assume that this was somehow a fluke and not malicious and/or intentional,” Chanae Jackson, another march organizer and the co-founder of Florida Forward Coalition wrote to Hawk. Jackson went on to repeat that Hawk and her team were welcome at the march even though they could not table as a candidate.
Despite these efforts, Hawk proved hard to reach, so national Planned Parenthood was alerted, Wolfrey said.
In the end, Hawk responded to Kai Christmas, a representative for Planned Parenthood. According to Wolfrey, Hawk told Christmas that her campaign assistant had locked the document out of an abundance of caution after noticing that people had been accessing it.
Jackson attested to this conversation between Hawk and Christmas.
Hawk offered to share a copy of the document, which was sent to the leaders of the march through Hawk’s assistant’s email address with the assistant’s email signature and photo.
Wolfrey, having worked with Hawk in the past, knew the assistant who had allegedly locked the document, so she reached out to her for the full story. In their phone call, Hawk’s assistant said she was out of town and unaware of the entire situation, according to Wolfrey.
It appeared to her that Hawk had claimed responsibility on behalf of her assistant who could not have locked the document, then falsely assumed her assistant’s identity, Wolfrey said.
“She [Hawk] claims that she is a self-proclaimed women’s rights and reproductive rights advocate, but she plainly tried to sabotage a reproductive rights march and went against a giant group of women in over 15 organizations,” Wolfrey said.
Hawk’s assistant declined to comment about the email situation.
Though Wolfrey and Hawk are seemingly fighting for the same rights and are on the same team, the situation has caused distrust on both sides.
Hawk’s campaign released a seven-paragraph statement asserting that it was “bad practice and questionable judgment” for the leaders of the march to use the document without the permission or knowledge of the campaign. The statement also pushed back against “unfounded, misogynistic attacks” Hawk received as a result of her initial non-responsiveness.
On the locking of the document, the statement claims that “when the campaign folder was flagged for suspicious activity, the campaign turned off sharing access for security purposes.”
The statement goes on to read, “The idea that the people involved in these attacks are connected to such reputable organizations fighting for the rights of women is deeply disturbing.”
Hawk tested positive for COVID-19 on the day of the march, but she wrote on social media that she otherwise would have attended the women’s march in Ocala. Wolfrey had claimed the Ocala march barred Hawk from speaking over the organizing incident, but the march’s lead organizer Francine Julius Edwards says, “No one was allowed to speak. It had nothing to do with any situation.”
Hawk was unavailable for comment with the Florida Political Review due to her recent diagnosis of COVID-19.
This is a developing story.
Featured Image: Women’s March in Washington DC, USA, 2017. (Unmodified photo by Mobilis In Mobili used under a Creative Commons License. https://bit.ly/3Fjx5Pp)
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