Personal and political: Women of all ages, and their allies, march in Northampton 

  • Patrice Strifert, left, and Diane Leardi, both of Guilford, Vermont, carry signs in a crowd of about 1,000 that departed Sheldon Field in Northampton for the third annual Pioneer Valley Women’s March on Saturday. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Sarah Rauber, left, of Chesterfield, an interpreter for the deaf, interprets chants by Maya Apfelbaum, right, of Greenfield and others during a rally at Sheldon Field in Northampton to begin the third annual Pioneer Valley Women’s March on Saturday, Jan. 19, 2019. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Cathy Roth of Middlefield pauses on Bridge Street in Northampton as about 1,000 people pass by on their way to City Hall during the third annual Pioneer Valley Women's March on Saturday, Jan. 19, 2019. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • A crowd of about 1,000 steps off from Sheldon Field in Northampton for the third annual Pioneer Valley Women’s March on Saturday. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Rachel Gordon of Greenfield addresses a crowd of about 400 people gathered at Sheldon Field in Northampton prior to the third annual Pioneer Valley Women’s March in Northampton on Saturday, Jan. 19, 2019. The crowd grew to about 1,000 by the time it stepped off for city hall just after noon. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Anna Scully, left, of Amherst, Eileen Moore of West Springfield and Athena Grey, a resident of the Hilltowns, join a chant that began the third annual Pioneer Valley Women’s March from Sheldon Field to Northampton City Hall on Saturday. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • About 1,000 people march down Bridge Street toward Northampton City Hall during the third annual Pioneer Valley Women’s March on Saturday, Jan. 19, 2019. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

Staff Writer 
Published: 1/19/2019 5:50:31 PM

NORTHAMPTON — Flooding the streets of Northampton on Saturday, the third annual Pioneer Valley Women’s March was as much a celebration as it was a call to action.

Over a thousand people gathered in front of the steps of City Hall for an energetic and impassioned rally that celebrated the record-breaking number of women elected to government last year while also framing the women’s movement as one that demands equality for all people. The Northampton march was one of several marches organized in cities across the United States such as Boston, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C.

“It feels powerful to stand shoulder to shoulder with women from this region,” Sen. Jo Comerford, D-Northampton, said to cheers from an excited crowd. “We have submitted legislation on Friday — and it is bold, and it is uncompromising — and it is calling for gender equity, and transgender rights, and economic justice, and public transportation, and billions of dollars of new investment in our public schools.”

The march, called the Women’s Wave, comes a little over two weeks after four women from the region took their oaths of office in the Massachusetts State House. Comerford and state Reps. Lindsay Sabadosa, D-Northampton, who is the former director of Pioneer Valley Women’s March, Mindy Domb, D-Amherst, and Natalie Blais, D-Sunderland, all took part in this year’s Women’s March. During the midterm elections last November, more than 100 women were elected to the U.S. House of Representatives.

“When we are rallying today for gender justice, we are rallying to fight against anti-Semitism, for immigrant rights, against xenophobia, for transgender rights,” Comerford said. “They are all the same struggle, and that is a beautiful struggle, and we can never let ourselves be divided.”

Speakers at the rally made clear that for all the progress made since the first Women’s March in 2017 — a vigorous rebuke of President Donald Trump that drew millions in demonstrations nationwide — there is still important work to be done.

In light of allegations that state Rep. Paul McMurtry, D-Dedham, walked up behind an incoming legislator and grabbed her backside during an orientation cocktail, as reported by The Boston Globe this week, Sabadosa said, “I am not going to be quiet about that.”

“This week, it turns out that I work in a building that I don’t know I can be safe,” Sabadosa said. “I am going to be really loud about that — for me, for everybody that works there, and for everyone in my community because you deserve better.”

‘Women united’

At 11 a.m., people began to arrive at Sheldon Field for the march through downtown Northampton. Wearing pink hats, carrying handmade signs, and bundled against the frigid cold, ralliers kept warm with rousing chants.

“Women united will never be defeated” and “Love, not hate, makes America great” were the refrains that echoed loudly throughout the morning and into the early afternoon.

Walking in the march along Route 9, there were drummers beating, guitar players singing Woody Guthrie’s “This Land Is Your Land,” and organizations — from the International Socialist Organizaiton to the Resistance Center for Peace and Justice — making themelves heard in the sprawling demonstration.

Northampton resident Kristin Dolcimascolo marched in the first Women’s March in 2017, and since then, she said, “I think we’ve seen the power that women have in the world.”

“We need to continue to make changes to reach equality for all, so it’s not over,” she said. “It’s important to recognize that there has been tons of success and a lot of actions because of people voting ... this is just another continuation of that. It’s another way to celebrate and come out and say we are still here, we are still moving forward, and we are still working towards equality for everybody.”

Jaeye Baek, an international student who is pursuing a doctorate in political science at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, said she was looking forward to participating in the Women’s March even before arriving from abroad.

“In South Korea, we also have a long-lasting feminist movement, so I was really looking forward to joining this movement as a sisterhood,” Baek said.

Throughout downtown, people peered from coffee shop windows and stood on the sidewalks gazing at the hundreds of people marching. Curious bystanders looked on at the massive swell of chanters, picket-sign holders and activists of all ages.

On the way to City Hall, Florence residet Peter LaBrusciano said he brought his son “to be involved and be active in our community.”

He added, “We need to do more than march — we need to challenge the very social structures that allow for inequality in our society.”

Other speakers at the rally in front of City Hall included Tanisha Arena, executive director of Arise for Social Justice; Mehlaqa Samdani, executive director of Critical Connections; and Kamini Waldman, co-president of the Northampton High School Democrats.

There were also performances by the Valley Women Drummers, The Hoping Machine, ZoKi and Prone to Mischief.

Luis Fieldman can be reached at lfieldman@gazettenet.com




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