News & Politics

Why Some Washingtonians Are Nixing July 4th Celebrations This Year

Fury over abortion rights is putting a damper on the holiday.

Photo by Evy Mages

Every year, Lauren, a social worker from Maryland, and her wife use the 4th of July as a reason to have friends over, watch fireworks, and eat good food. But this time, in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, the couple just doesn’t feel right celebrating America—or much of anything. That’s been the case for them ever since news of the ruling arrived. “This past weekend, my wife and I didn’t really want to talk to anyone or do anything,” says Lauren (who asked that we only use her first name). “It was just very depressing.”

After doing some research on the best ways to support abortion rights organizations, Lauren is instead turning her annual cookout into a fundraiser for the DC Abortion Fund. Though the she only plans to have around 15 people over, she reached out to the fund, which is supplying her with pins, tote bags, information sheets, and other freebies to give her friends and help raise money. “I feel a lot better about the cookout now that we’re being more productive instead of just celebrating America,” Lauren says.

Social media has lately blown up with other people who are protesting and “canceling” the Independence Day holiday this year due to anger over the court’s decision. Some users have advocated wearing black to “mourn lost rights” while others have called on people to boycott fireworks and parades.

Netta Garrett, a student living in DC, says she plans to spend the holiday at home posting information on how to safely have an abortion. She says she doesn’t want to celebrate the 4th of July when people in many communities across the country are losing their rights. Deborah April, a nutritionist who lives on Capitol Hill, shares similar concerns: She’s using the holiday as a time to take care of herself. “The last thing I want to do is dress in red and blue and be happy right now for what’s going on,” she says.

Some groups and businesses are tapping into that sentiment by using the 4th of July as a day of public protest. Advocacy group Shout Your Abortion is setting up a protest stand at the Supreme Court on Monday, for example, and the Midlands DC, a beer garden and sports bar, will hold a pop-up event on the holiday and donate 100% of the proceeds to the DC Abortion Fund. 

Boycotting Independence Day isn’t new: Many Americans, especially people of color, see the holiday as a reflection of the country’s uglier history. People have also chosen not to celebrate in recent years due to the pandemic, the killing of George Floyd, and other issues. But the timing and significance of the Supreme Court decision is making this year’s holiday particularly fraught for many locals. To Lauren, the goal is to “just figure out a way to offer support to people who may need it. That will at least make this 4th of July a little better for everybody. I honestly have really negative feelings towards America right now.”

Maggie Hicks
Editorial Fellow