Editorial: Women’s marches deliver powerful message

  • Hospitality tents, remaining from the inauguration on Friday, obscure a view of the National Mall as marchers begin their route toward the White House during the Women’s March on Washington on Saturday, Jan. 21, 2017. KEVIN GUTTING

Published: 1/23/2017 7:47:18 PM

The numbers were staggering and the messages powerful as more than two million people took part in marches organized globally as an antidote to Donald Trump’s presidency.

Originally planned as the Women’s March on Washington, Saturday’s event mushroomed into what organizers said were more than 600 events that clogged streets with protesters in communities across the United State and on all seven continents — including 30 people in Paradise Bay, Antarctica. From an estimated 500,000 people in Washington, to 3,000 in Northampton and 2,000 in Greenfield, organizers said the marches drew far more people than they had expected.

In Northampton, environmental activist Marty Nathan spoke in Pulaski Park and observed, “I thought there would be 20 people here. Could I have been wronger?’’ In Washington, 82-year-old feminist Gloria Steinem said, “This is the upside of the downside. This is an outpouring of democracy like I’ve never seen in my life.”

Though the crowds were predominantly female, men and children also took part at the events which delivered a serious message — which at its core was disavowal of the new president’s statements, policies and dark vision of America – amid a festive atmosphere colored with pink “pussyhats” and signs, many with pointed messages such as “You can’t comb over sexism.”  

For many it was a time to regain a sense of hope after Trump’s election, a time of empowerment, a time of unity. And it was a time to declare their opposition to the new president’s attacks on women, immigrants, health care, the environment and the free press. It was a rallying cry for continuing action. Many speakers described a brighter, more inclusive vision for America that stood  in stark contrast to the gloomy picture painted by Trump during his inaugural address Friday.

Eve Brown-Waite of Deerfield said she took part in the Women Standing Our Ground Rally in Greenfield “because I believe this is the United States of America that we want to have. We have to create it. We are and we will.”

In Northampton, Diana Sierra, an organizer for the Pioneer Valley Workers Center, sounded a warning tempered by optimism that the energy generated by Saturday’s events is only the beginning of building opposition to the new president’s threats to civil rights.

“Trumpism will come to Northampton if we do not protect the most vulnerable people – workers and immigrants. We must stop Trump and any politicians from separating our families,” Sierra said. “Winning is possible. History demonstrates when ordinary people like you and me, the oppressed, organize, we can tackle institutions responsible for inequality in our society.”

In Boston, where an estimated 175,000 people marched, U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren said, “We can whimper. We can whine. Or we can fight back. We come here to stand shoulder to shoulder to make clear: We are here. We will not be silent. We will not play dead. We will fight for what we believe in.”

She continued, “And we believe that sexism, racism, homophobia and bigotry have no place in this country. Black lives matter; diversity makes our country stronger. We believe that equal means equal and that’s true in the workplace, it’s true in marriage, it’s true every place.”

Over and over the message reverberated: the thousands of people who attended Saturday’s events cannot be satisfied just with marching and they must resolve to take further action – whether it is on a political stage or grassroots organizing.

Mary Ford, who 25 years ago became the first woman mayor of Northampton, urged people there to join local groups dedicated to specific issues such as health care, climate change or immigrant rights. “Prepare. Decide for yourself with your group in advance what you’re going to do if there is a threat to your cause. And the rest of us need to have your backs.”

And in Washington, Congressman James McGovern, of Worcester, echoed the message delivered by other Democratic politicians across the country who were shaken by Trump’s election: “Look, millions and millions of people across this country are frightened and I think a lot of people are here today because they want to make it clear they are going to fight back,” he told Gazette reporter Emily Cutts. “Politics is not about rolling over, it’s about standing up for what you believe in and fighting for it.”

Saturday was a good starting point for the millions of people who do not share Trump’s vision for America. The challenge for them now is carrying on the momentum generated during that powerful day.


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