BRATTLEBORO—On Jan. 21, the day after the inauguration, hundreds of thousands of women — and men — will converge on Washington, D.C., for the Women’s March on Washington.
People all over the country and the world will be marching that day also, and Windham County people will be part of it all.
According to organizers, the march is intended to remind the new leaders of the U.S. that the country and its Constitution support the rights of all Americans, not just those who are white and wealthy.
“The mission of the Women’s March on Washington is to bring people of all genders and backgrounds together to take a stand on social justice and human rights issues that deeply impact all of us,” spokeswoman Tina Cassidy told The Commons.
“The March will take place Saturday, the first day of the new Presidential administration,” Cassidy added. “We believe that women’s rights are human rights. Many Americans fear that their voices will be lost, specifically on issues that impact women’s rights, immigrant rights, worker rights, reproductive rights, LGBTQIA rights, environmental rights, rights for all races, and religious freedom.”
Not just about Trump
Harry Belafonte and Gloria Steinem will be honorary co-chairs of this strictly grassroots operation, which organizers say is not solely a protest against incoming President Donald J. Trump.
“Our constitution does not begin with ‘I, the President or we the Congress,’” Steinem said. “It begins with, ‘We, the People.’ I am proud to be one of thousands who will come to Washington to make clear that we will keep working for a democracy in which we are linked as human beings, not ranked by race or gender or class or any other label.”
The march has a permit to begin at Independence Avenue and Third Street SW, near the U.S. Capitol, at 10 a.m. It will end at 5 p.m. Buses will drop marchers off at different sites around the city, so attendees have been warned to buy D.C. Metro passes in advance to avoid long lines at the train stations.
After the march was announced, Amtrak sold out all its train seats to Washington in two weeks. Bus companies were flooded with requests for charters. In this area, Premier Coach, Rally Bus, and Thomas Transportation buses will be leaving from Keene, New Hampshire; Brattleboro, Putney; and Northampton, Massachusetts, among other places.
Locally, people have been busy organizing buses, information sessions and and sign-making sessions. More than 100 people attended a local planning meeting in Dummerston on Jan. 15, and a vigil in support of the march will be held in Pliny Park in Brattleboro at noon on Saturday.
“The march is a stand on social justice, environmental, and human rights issues ranging from race, ethnicity, gender, religion, immigration, and health care,” said organizer Connie Woodberry of Dummerston.
Defending basic rights
Woodberry, like many local women, signed up for the march soon after the election results were announced.
“My reason for immediately wanting to go was to speak up to a new administration that appears to be oppressive, anti-social, and anti-feminine,” Woodberry said. “Most importantly, I feel our freedom of speech is threatened. I have lived in countries where there is no freedom of speech and it chills me to the bone to imagine the U.S. joining their ranks. I am marching because I want to be seen, to be counted as supporting basic human rights.”
One of Woodberry’s many concerns is that the Americans with Disability Act will be weakened.
“I have a son who has a developmental delay,” Woodberry said. “The lawyer at the Disability Law Project told me that the Americans with Disabilities Act, which ensures civil rights for people with disabilities, is likely to be negatively affected under the new administration.
“The pick for Attorney General, Sen. Jeff Sessions, has made several derogatory remarks about people with disabilities and the ADA. And he is the person who will be in charge of enforcing and supporting the ADA. I am marching for my son.”
Woodberry said her daughter, who works as a nurse in Boston homeless clinics, has been hearing from her clients stories of being harassed and hurt by people who call themselves “Trump supporters.”
“My daughter is marching in D.C. with me,” Woodberry said.
For future generations
Marti Anderson, an education and teacher training consultant from East Dummerston, said, “I’m going to D.C. on behalf of those who aren’t able to travel there and for this and future generations.”
“I think that many of us agree that we have to take a stand to indicate that we are not going to allow hate, fear, fascism and xenophobia to rule our country whose Constitution was founded on very different and higher principles,” she added. “That seems to be the main message our group from the Brattleboro, Putney, and Dummerston area wants to deliver.”
Anderson called the incoming administration “an unprincipled and volatile group where compassion seems rare. I guess there is danger in not knowing what to expect from them. But I am trusting in the greater good of everyone who will be there and, indeed, the greater hope, potential, and good will of people both here and around the world. If I don’t trust in that, all will be lost in the turmoil created by the incoming administration.”
The march won’t be confined to Washington. As of Jan. 15, there were more than 400 “sister” marches planned all over the country — at least one in every state, plus Puerto Rico.
‘Unprecedented, organic, and viral’
In New England, sister marches will take place in Montpelier, Boston, and Greenfield, Northampton, and Pittsfield, Massachusetts, and 55 other cities around the globe from Tokyo to Nairobi to Paris to Bogota.
“This is an unprecedented, organic, and viral grassroots global movement that is growing everyday,” said Boston-based national sister march spokeswoman Yordanos Eyoel, who became a U.S. citizen last fall, in a news release.
“More than 500,000 people have already committed to march all over the country and the world in just a matter of weeks,” Eyoel said. “The aggregate turnout has the potential to exceed 1 million marchers. What makes this movement even more special is that people who have never been politically active before are now mobilizing.”
“In terms of what I intend to accomplish, if we only march and nothing else happens then we won’t have accomplished much,” Woodberry said. “But my hope is that this march will connect people and inspire people. Connect people locally and inspire people to stay vigilant, to stand up for our values, to speak up and resist when we disagree, and to stay united in our communities.”