A woman sitting in a chair speaks into a microphone onstage.
Vice President Kamala Harris speaks about reproductive rights at Mexican Heritage Plaza in San Jose on Jan. 29, 2024. Photo by Joseph Geha.

Vice President Kamala Harris visited San Jose today, marking the second stop on her nationwide “Fight for Reproductive Freedoms” tour, where she contended with protesters calling for a ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas war.

During a talk at the Mexican Heritage Plaza in East San Jose, Harris called for continued action to ensure reproductive freedoms are upheld in California and to help bring such protections nationwide, in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade in June 2022.

“We need this November to elect a majority of people in the United States Congress who simply agree it’s not the government’s right to tell a woman what is in her own best interest, when she knows what’s in her own best interest,” Harris said to a crowd of hundreds in a theater at the plaza.

The rollback of Roe has caused “extreme harm” nationwide, Harris said, with some states proposing and passing laws that “criminalize doctors and punish women,” as well as threaten health care workers for providing reproductive care to their patients.

Harris said when a democracy is intact, it strongly protects and preserves rights, freedoms and equality. But she added it is simultaneously fragile, and called for more coalition building and organizing around the issue.

“It’s only as strong as our will is to fight for it, and so fight we will,” she said. “We must understand how precarious and precious this all is and commit ourselves every day to stand up and fight for these rights and freedoms.”

Two women sit in chairs on a stage in front of an audience.
Vice President Kamala Harris (right) speaks with actor and activist Sophia Bush about reproductive rights at Mexican Heritage Plaza in San Jose on Jan. 29, 2024. Photo by Joseph Geha.

During Harris’ talk with actor and activist Sophia Bush, protesters interrupted the vice president several times, demanding she push for a ceasefire in Gaza.

“Madame Vice President, we demand a ceasefire now,” one protester shouted. “You are complicit in genocide,” another yelled at Harris.

At times Harris continued her remarks mostly undeterred, speaking over protesters, but she also responded at one point.

“In a real democracy, everyone has a right to have their voice heard. And let me say, we all want this conflict to end as soon as possible, and the president and I are working on it every single day,” Harris said.


Vice President Kamala Harris visited #SanJose today, marking the second stop on her nationwide “Fight for Reproductive Freedoms” tour. Hundreds of residents, elected officials and community advocates packed into the theater at the plaza in anticipation of Harris’ appearance. Protesters also attended, urging VP Harris to call for a ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas war. Read more about the event at SanJoseSpotlight.com.

♬ original sound – San José Spotlight

Attendees started chanting “four more years” to counter the protesters’ chants. Some said the interruptions distracted from Harris’ message.

Pamela Michelle Tate, co-executive director of San Francisco-based Black Women Revolt Against Domestic Violence, said Harris’ comments on reproductive rights are timely and on point.

“I wish we would do more listening to each other instead of talking at each other,” Tate told San José Spotlight. “There is empathy with women in Gaza. Of course while people are sympathizing and want a ceasefire, everything has a time and place.”

The protesters inside the theater came with a similar message as dozens of people who gathered outside the plaza at the corner of Alum Rock Avenue and S. King Road ahead of Harris’ arrival. The groups, which included members of the Bay Area chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, brought loudspeakers and Palestinian flags, calling for a “Free Palestine” and an end to U.S. support for Israel during the deadly conflict in the region.

“Biden, Harris, you can’t hide, we charge you with genocide,” the protesters chanted.

Protesters hold signs outside behind a barricade.
Protesters called for a ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas war outside of Mexican Heritage Plaza in East San Jose on Jan. 29, 2024, ahead of a visit by Vice President Kamala Harris. Photo by Joseph Geha.

Bridget Rochios of Oakland is a nurse midwife, and supports Harris’ call for reproductive rights, but came to the plaza to urge Harris to call for a ceasefire.

“Women in Palestine are experiencing major atrocities and reproductive healthcare violations, so we’re here to stand up for them as well,” Rochios told San José Spotlight. “We can’t have reproductive rights just in the United States while she’s letting the massacre of people and genocide of people in Palestine continue.”

Harris’ reproductive rights tour started last week in Wisconsin, on the 51st anniversary of Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion across the country. A statement from the White House said Harris’ events will “bring together thousands of people to fight for the freedom of every American to make decisions about their own body.”

In addition to visiting states where a woman’s right to choose is being protected, Harris will make stops in states with abortion bans that are threatening women’s health, and others where confusion for residents and doctors has sprouted in the wake of the overturning of Roe.

Dr. Juno Obedin-Maliver, a Stanford Health Care obstetrician/gynecologist, said doctors are not just seeing people traveling from states without reproductive freedom protections to California for health care.

“We see people who won’t travel or who are limited in attending work events or visiting family because they are scared about what might happen if they have a health event in another state,” Obedin-Maliver told San José Spotlight. “We’re all in this country together, so how people vote in states without these protections affects everyone.”

Contact Joseph Geha at [email protected] or @josephgeha16 on X, formerly known as Twitter.

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