A sign hanging near the front steps of the Columbia County Justice Center reading “Don’t Be Lactose Intolerant” reinforced the message a group of nursing mothers hoped to get across to lawmakers Monday.
About 20 women, a handful of husbands and numerous children gathered at the Evans courthouse for a protest, which was part of a statewide effort to bring awareness to what they say is discrimination faced by mothers breast-feeding in public.
Several signs made by protesters, who called themselves “lactivists,” were taped to garbage cans surrounding the group. One stated, “If adults can eat in public, so can babies.” Another proclaimed breast milk “The Original Happy Meal.”
“I don’t think Evans has ever seen this before,” said local event coordinator Heather Comprosky.
The idea for the turnout started when Woodbine, Ga., mother Nirvana Jeannette was sent out of church for breast-feeding and told by law enforcement she could be arrested for indecent exposure.
As a result, events similar to the one in Evans were held Monday in Atlanta, Woodbine, Savannah and Warner Robins.
“When women are under attack, we look out for one another,” said Andrea McPherson, who also helped organize the Evans event.
The women hope to change state law to protect mothers nursing in public from being harassed or arrested.
Anyone caught nursing in public now faces charges of indecent exposure and a maximum fine of $1,000.
“We’re not strippers,” said Comprosky, who nurses her 18-month-old son, Wyatt. “We believe the law needs teeth.”
Evans resident Kristin Lovell heard about the event on Facebook, where 50 people had confirmed their attendance.
She brought her husband, Steven, and four of her five children she has breast-fed.
“It just seems as the years go by, breast-feeding becomes more taboo,” said Lovell, who nurses her 8-month-old son, Jake. “It’s just a shame that people are being told it’s obscene and not to feed their children.”