ROME — Women displaying their naked torsos, demanding legal and free abortion and recognition of prostitution as a legitimate trade, assaulted a Catholic cathedral in Argentina on Sunday, hurling a Molotov cocktail along with stones, bottles and fake used tampons.
An estimated 40,000 women participated in a rally that closed Argentina’s 32nd “National Encounter of Women,” which this year took place in the northern city of Resistencia.
To try to avoid the usual annual attacks on cathedrals in the cities where these encounters take place, organizers made sure the building wasn’t included on their route. However, some 5,000 of the protesters broke ranks and went after the cathedral anyway.
Topless and covering their faces, the women who assaulted the cathedral did so singing various chants, including “Church, trash, you’re the dictatorship,” “Take your rosaries out of our ovaries,” “To the Catholic, apostolic, Roman Church, that wants to place itself in our bed, we say that we want to be whores, transvestites and lesbians. Legal abortion in any place.”
The event known as the “Tetazo,” literally the “Boob Protest,” also included several chants against Pope Francis, calling him by his former name: “[Jorge Mario] Bergoglio, look, those who abort are a majority,” and, “If the pope was a woman, abortion would be law.”
The National Encounter of Women took place Oct. 14-16, coinciding on Sunday with Argentina’s celebration of Mother’s Day.
The rally at the cathedral also included an “Artistic Intervention in the Cathedral of Resistencia,” which featured a projection of images of fire, as if the building were burning, along with stereotypical witches singing and an imitation of Michelangelo’s Pieta with a naked woman instead of Christ.
Although the organizers of the encounter claimed no affiliation with the wildcat protest that struck the cathedral, which also called for the state to stop subsidizing the Church, they did tweet out a video with the projection:
— Encuen. Nac. Mujeres (@ENM32Chaco) October 15, 2017
There were 71 workshops for participants, including “Women and feminism,” which focused on taking the patriarchy out of politics, “Women and sexuality,” “Women and lesbianism,” “Women and maternity,” “Women and sexual and reproductive rights,” “Strategies for legal, safe and free abortion,” “Women and disabilities,” “Women in the fight against drug addiction and drug trafficking,” “Women and cannabis,” “Violence, abuse and sexual harassment,” “Femicides,” and “Feminization of poverty.”
In Argentina, abortion is illegal unless the life of the mother is threatened by pregnancy, and the right to life is constitutionally protected from “its conception until natural death.”
President Mauricio Macri, as his predecessors before him, has said on several occasions that he doesn’t plan on legalizing abortion, and he even prayed for the protection of life when closing the XI National Eucharistic Congress last year.
According to several local news outlets, upon their arrival at the cathedral, the women participating in the ‘boob march’ used stones, tampons and pads with red paint, paint balloons, and even their own feces as projectiles.
They also set trashcans on fire and painted the walls of the nearby buildings near city hall. As a precaution, they put up fences protecting the religious building, targeted yearly by this rally.
The paintings include phrases such as “Death to the pope,” “castration for rapists,” “abort the macho,” “lesbianize yourself,” and “legalize cannabis.”
Last year, the itinerant event took place in Rosario, the country’s second city after Buenos Aires. On that occasion, the situation got so out of hand that police forces had to use rubber bullets to scatter the participants.
However, in Resistencia, the security forces, including the fire department, used a water truck to disperse them. Yet, a small group stayed behind and threw a Molotov cocktail which, according to the local newspaper Diario Chaco, harmed the building’s door.
Seeing the damage created by the rally on Sunday night, many neighbors came out and demanded the women leave, saying they weren’t welcome in the city.
Organizers of the women’s encounter said that no “significant damage” was made to the religious building, dismissing the ‘boob protest’ as part of the “folklore” of the annual gathering.
Archbishop Ramón Dus, of Resistencia, issued a message ahead of the gathering, asking the Catholic faithful to show a welcoming attitude and not “be afraid, as if we were facing a horde of savages.”
However, these yearly encounters are not the only occasions in Francis’s home country of Argentina when feminist rallies of any sort devolve into attacks on churches and on the Catholic faith.
Earlier this year, on March 8, as the world marked the United Nations-sponsored International Women’s Day, a woman dressed like the Virgin Mary pretended to have an abortion in front of a cathedral.
The events took place in Tucuman, a northern province in Argentina, where thousands rallied in favor of equal pay for women and against femicide. In Argentina, statistics were released showing that in 2016 a woman was murdered by her male partner every 30 hours, giving an impetus to the rally.
However, an event that was once about equality between women and men has also become, for most of those participating, a rally in favor of abortion.