Activists gather in Pulaski Park for solidarity rally

  • Debby Pastrich-Klemer, co-founder of Indivisible Northampton and event organizer speaks to the crowd in Pulaski Park, Sept. 21, 2019. STAFF PHOTO/MICHAEL CONNORS

  • The crowd at Pulaski Park for the “We the People Solidarity March,” Sept. 21, 2019. STAFF PHOTO/MICHAEL CONNORS

Staff Writer
Published: 9/21/2019 5:25:34 PM

NORTHAMPTON — One day after hundreds of people massed downtown to protest inaction on climate change, a smaller group gathered at Pulaski Park to call for greater accountability from lawmakers on issues such as gun control and immigrant rights.

Around three dozen people came together in the shade on a hot Saturday afternoon for the local “We the People Solidarity March,” an offshoot of the larger “We the People March” held the same day in Washington, D.C. 

“I wanted to get out there and remind people we need to speak up,” said Debby Pastrich-Klemer, a co-founder of Indivisible Northampton and organizer of the rally.

The event was marked with a number of speeches from members of the community and other activist organizations. Before the rally began, activists from movements including Indivisible Northampton, Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America and Climate Action Now Western Mass were tabling and registering passersby to vote or signing them up to volunteer.

One of the first speakers was Anne Thalheimer, a survivor of the 1992 shooting at Bard’s College at Simon’s Rock in Great Barrington that killed two people. 

She discussed the efforts to pass gun control legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives, noting H.R.8, a bipartisan background checks bill that was passed by the chamber earlier in the year. Thalheimer, a candidate for Holyoke City Council Ward 3, told the crowd she was disappointed to see such little action on the bill in the Senate — its last action was to place it on its calendar in March.

“We are talking about an epidemic in America — gun violence is of epidemic proportions and we know that it disproportionally affects communities of color and we know that it disproportionately affects LGBTQ+ communities,” Thalheimer said.

Lori Ahrens, founding director of The Real Cost of Prisons Project, a locally based national organization that explores the impacts of mass incarceration in America. She explained the Franklin County Jail in Greenfield was an ICE detention facility, and that the Hampden County Sherriff’s office is interested in making its jail available for ICE detainees, a fact first reported by WBUR in June.

Javier Luengo-Garrido, coordinator for the ACLU of Massachusetts’ Immigrant Protection Project, reiterated the need for people to think about and advocate for the rights of immigrants in the U.S. Strumming an acoustic guitar and singing passionately into a microphone, Luengo-Garrido also sang two songs in Spanish for the crowd.

“Immigrant rights are human rights,” he said.

State Rep. Lindsay Sabadosa, D-Northampton, focused her remarks on Medicare For All proposals, saying people should put the same amount of pressure on state legislators as they put on federal lawmakers. A member of the state Medicare For All caucus and lead sponsor of the accompanying bill, Sabadosa said the group is trying to pass single-payer health care in the commonwealth.

“We know that where we can do things, where we can affect real change is in our State House,” Sabadosa said.

Last to speak at the rally was Jennifer Taub, a visiting professor at Harvard Law School and an occasional cable news commentator. After leading the group in singing the U.S. Constitution’s preamble in “Schoolhouse Rock” style, she called for people to petition lawmakers for a vote in the House of Representatives on potential articles of impeachment regarding alleged obstruction of justice against President Donald Trump.

“The House has control that they’re not using,” she said. 

Michael Connors can be reached at mconnors@gazettenet.com. 
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