Members of Yale’s Student Global Health and AIDS Coalition, or SGHAC, protested outside a private fundraising event for Rep. Paul Ryan in Darien, Conn. on Sunday — meeting both supportive honks and angry curses from passing drivers. As Ryan raised funds inside the Darien Country Club, seven members of SGHAC and four volunteers from New Haven Planned Parenthood protested for almost two hours on the road outside the club.
The group, which met Ryan as he arrived at the event, cited the congressman’s views on abortion, contraception and Medicaid as the motivation behind its protest.
“It would be great if Paul Ryan saw us, and I think he did, but that’s not the point,” David Carel ’13 said. “We do this for the probably 400 or so people who just drove by in cars during that time and for the thousands of people who will be reached if and when this is covered in the local press throughout Connecticut.”
They bore brightly colored signs reading, “The only protection a woman needs is from Paul Ryan,” “Women are watching,” and “Paul Ryan would ban forms of contraception.”
Planning for the protest officially began last Wednesday, according to Carel. SGHAC members researched the event to find out exactly when Ryan was arriving, drafted press pieces for local newspapers — such as the Darien Times and the Greenwich Time — and solicited volunteers from groups including Planned Parenthood.
Gretchen Raffa, a protester at the event and the director of Planned Parenthood’s local public policy and advocacy arm, said Ryan’s platform is “dangerous for women’s health” and will “take us back decades.”
Like Carel, Ryan Boyko GRD ’18 spoke about the larger impact he hoped the protest would achieve.
“There are a lot of kids in the back of these cars hearing our message,” Boyko said. Carel added that he hoped those who drove by the protest would go back to their friends and families and talk about what they saw.
Republican Senate candidate Linda McMahon, currently locked in a tight race with Democratic Rep. Chris Murphy, was notably absent from Sunday’s fundraising events, citing scheduling conflicts, the Connecticut Post reported.
Gary Rose, a professor of political science at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, Conn., said he was not surprised McMahon would keep Ryan “at arm’s length,” dubbing him a “lightning rod” who leans farther to the right than most Republicans in the state.
“McMahon has to run a centrist campaign or else lose the support of independent voters,” Rose said.
Carel added that SGHAC sought to use Ryan’s visit as an opportunity to draw attention to McMahon’s alleged anti-choice record on reproductive rights, which she now denies. The group plans to follow up the protest by submitting an op-ed about women’s health to various local newspapers, hoping to tip the Senate race in Murphy’s favor, Carel said.
Tickets to the fundraiser general reception were $1,000 per person, photo reception was $5,000 per person, and the roundtable discussion was $10,000 per person, according to the Darien Times.