JEFFERSON CITY — Despite having no lawmakers in the building, the Missouri Capitol was buzzing with activity Saturday as gun owners and abortion opponents staged protests against a government they said has gotten out of control.
Anti-abortion activists marked the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the landmark U.S. Supreme Court case establishing a nationwide right to abortion, in a march on the Missouri Capitol.
Hundreds of participants in the Midwest March for Life gathered Saturday morning in front of the Governor's Mansion for a 15 minute trek. Led by a large wooden cross, protesters solemnly walked to the west side of the Capitol and entered the rotunda, where they gathered for prayer and speeches.
"We are here today to speak up for those who cannot speak up for themselves," said David Bereit, national director of the 40 Days for Life campaign and the event's keynote speaker.
Diane Siesener of St. Louis was attending her first anti-abortion march and said Saturday's activities inspired her to continue the fight.
Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri planned to hold its own rally for abortion rights supporters on Tuesday at a clinic in Columbia.
Later Friday, hundreds of gun enthusiasts were at the Capitol for a separate event protesting gun control proposals.
Missouri gun owners organized an impromptu rally to respond to measures proposed by President Barack Obama. Earlier this week, the president proposed legislation that included a ban on assault weapons in response to the deadly Connecticut school shootings that claimed 26 lives.
"Using a firearm to defend against an attacker, that is freedom," said Wildwood resident Marc Perez to loud cheers from the crowd.
Kenny Parks, a General Mills factory worker from Hannibal, organized the Gun Appreciation Day rally in less than two weeks through social media. He said he was impressed by how large the crowd was given the short notice.
Park Hills resident Torrie Jones made the nearly three-hour drive to the capital to attend the rally after finding out about it on Facebook.
"I don't want my weapons taken away from me," she said.
In addition to Obama's proposals, state lawmakers have introduced gun control measures of their own. One bill would require parents to disclose to their children's school whether they own a firearm.
Although the gun and anti-abortion events were separate, one of the speakers found a common thread.
"Abortion has taken more lives than guns ever took in this nation," said Beth Ann, Commensense Coalition talk radio host and speaker at the gun rally.