Abortion rights supporters and opponents clash during a protest in downtown Dallas

Abortion rights supporters and opponents came face to face Wednesday afternoon at a protest in downtown Dallas.

The protest, organized by abortion rights supporters, began at noon at Dallas City Hall and turned rowdy after counter-protesters appeared around 12:15 p.m.

Protests erupted in North Texas and across the country following the US Supreme Court’s decision on Friday to overturn Roe v Wade. On Tuesday night in Denton, hundreds of protesters gathered outside City Hall as the City Council considered a resolution – which eventually passed, 4-3 – that would ask police to prioritize enforcement abortion laws.

The nation’s High Court ruling will set in motion “trigger laws” banning abortion in 13 states, including Texas.

The Texas law will take effect 30 days after the Supreme Court issues its final judgment in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which may take several weeks after the court’s opinion is released.

All clinics in Texas stopped offering abortions on Friday. On Tuesday, however, a state court ruled they could temporarily resume abortions during six weeks of pregnancy.

At the start of the rally, Kamyon Conner, executive director of the Texas Equal Access Fund, told protesters not to engage with opponents, but more than half of supporters tried to engage with counter-protesters as Dallas police were trying to keep the groups apart.

Chalked on the sidewalks and walls around City Hall, messages read “Fill me with rage” and “You can only ban safe abortions.” Opponents were gathered behind the police and one person held a sign that read “Repent, Turn to Jesus or Burn.”

Anjali Das, 19, said she joined the rally with her friends because she was “enraged and livid” at SCOTUS’ decision. She said that while she was worried about the counter-protesters, she felt the strength in the number of abortion-rights supporters.

“Especially being women of color, it’s a fear every time we step out of the house, but especially when we protest,” she said. “But I feel like when you see all these people, they’re there to protect you.”

Hundreds of protesters began to gather around City Hall as tensions grew between the groups. A policeman asked protesters to stay at the intersection in front of City Hall, but instead they started marching down Akard Street.

An officer was heard saying ‘There are only six of us, what can we do?’

Uduak Nkanga, one of the Afiya Center organizers and proponent of abortion rights, said turnout exceeded expectations, especially on a weekday afternoon.

“Despite the arrival of anti groups, we remained focused on why we were there,” she said.

Protesters marched through Akard Station and the AT&T Discovery District while chanting and banging on their signs. The sound of their chants could be heard echoing off the downtown skyscrapers. People emerged from downtown restaurants and offices to watch the roaring crowd pass by.

Nkanga said the march was spontaneous and organizers had only planned the rally. As protesters marched through the city center without police escort, drivers were forced to stop. At times, the crowd squeezed through traffic.

Some drivers honked their horns in support, while others looked frustrated, forced to wait as hundreds drove by.

Protesters also surrounded the Earle Cabell Federal Building on Commerce Street multiple times, blocking traffic and streets before returning to City Hall around 2 p.m.

Taña Welch, 47, recently moved from Atlanta to Dallas. As an abortion rights supporter, Welch said she frequently attends protests in Georgia, but was nervous about Wednesday because of Texas gun laws.

Despite fears of violence erupting, she said it was important for her to teach her children to “protect their rights and know how to fight for them”.

“You can’t let it scare you off,” Welch said. “I must have your voice.”

David H. Henry