Women, allies make voices heard in fourth Pioneer Valley Women’s March

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  • Justine Crespo, 12, of South Hadley listens to speakers during the pre-rally of the fourth annual Pioneer Valley Women's March on Saturday, Jan. 18, 2020, in Springfield. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • The fourth annual Pioneer Valley Women's March steps off from Northgate Center Plaza on Main Street in Springfield en route to City Hall on Saturday, Jan. 18, 2020. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • United Confederation Of Taino People representative Chali'Naru Dones, center, and participants in the fourth annual Pioneer Valley Women's March face north as she leads them in a call upon the four directions during a pre-rally at Northgate Center Plaza in Springfield on Saturday, Jan. 18, 2020. On stage with her are Cathy McNally, left, and Yolanda Cancel, right. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Members of the Red Rebel Brigade performance troupe of Extinction Rebellion move silently up the steps of Springfield City Hall during the fourth annual Pioneer Valley Women's March on Saturday, Jan. 18, 2020. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Serin Decherd and her daughter, Zariah, 6 1/2, of South Hadley take part in the fourth annual Pioneer Valley Women's March down Main Street in Springfield on Saturday, Jan. 18, 2020. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Rhonda Anderson of Colrain, who is Inupiaq-Athabascan from Alaska, speaks to a rally of about 500 people on the steps of Springfield City Hall during the fourth annual Pioneer Valley Women's March on Saturday, Jan. 18, 2020. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Jeannette Rivera, Regional Outreach Director for the Pioneer Valley Women's March, takes a moment during the rally at Springfield City Hall on Saturday, Jan. 18, 2020, to note the passing of four local women activists in the last year, including Frances Crowe of Northampton who died at the age of 100. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Jeannette Rivera, Regional Outreach Director for the Pioneer Valley Women's March, takes a moment during the rally at Springfield City Hall on Saturday, Jan. 18, 2020, to note the passing of four local women activists in the last year, including Frances Crowe of Northampton who died at the age of 100. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • The fourth annual Pioneer Valley Women's March steps off from Northgate Center Plaza on Main Street in Springfield en route to City Hall on Saturday, Jan. 18, 2020. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

Staff Writer
Published: 1/18/2020 6:09:47 PM

SPRINGFIELD — Women and their allies carried a message of resistance and empowerment through the frigid afternoon Saturday as hundreds of people walked down Main Street for the fourth annual Pioneer Valley Women’s March, in solidarity with many thousands more demonstrating in similar events across the country.

Having taken place the last three years in Northampton, this year’s women’s march flooded the streets of Springfield with chanting protesters holding homemade signs. Speakers and participants alike energetically rebuked President Donald Trump’s administration and called for greater action for social, racial, environmental and economic justice.

“It is time to resist,” proclaimed Rhonda Anderson of Colrain, a member of the Native Alaskan tribe Inupiaq Athabaskan, to the crowd of 500 at Springfield City Hall. “Resist racism, resist marginalization, resist colonization, resist harmful legislation that seeks to turn back the clock against women, against minorities and against our Mother Earth.”

The first women’s marches occurred only a day after Trump’s inauguration in 2017. Since then, the annual women-led marches have aimed to unify people behind shared goals that prioritize justice for all through female empowerment and gender equality.

But before traffic was slowed to a halt as the pink-hatted crowd filed down the sides of city streets, participants gathered in the Northgate Center parking lot at 1985 Main St. for a pre-rally.

Standing with signs reading “GOP where is your courage? If he gets away with this, who knows what’s next?” and “Hate never made America great,” Belchertown residents Elaine Williamson and Mary Lee Wilson said they came to the event to make their voices heard against the president.

“It’s absolutely horrifying what’s going on right now,” Wilson said. “Our whole country is being sold out to these billionaires and powerful people who will lie and cheat and do anything it takes to be in power.”

Williamson supports removing Trump from office through the Senate trial this week following his impeachment in the House of Representatives late last year, as she believes the country is becoming an oligarchy.

“There needs to be a mass of people who come out and either support a removal, or, if that doesn’t happen, remove him from office by voting,” Williamson said. “All of the people who sat on the sidelines the last time cannot do that this time.”

Wearing a purple, white and green British suffragette sash, League of Women Voters member Susan Millinger said the women’s march is a good way to try to bring a greater focus to issues she believes are important.

“You need to show people that there are a number of people who are concerned about these issues and try to get other people to think about them,” said Millinger, of Shutesbury.

As people made their way down Main Street toward City Hall, Kelan O’Brien of Pittsfield stood on a corner of  Worthington Street holding a sign featuring the viral baby Yoda “sipping tea” meme. On his sign, the Force-wielding alien was wearing a pink hat and the sign read “Me watching Trump be impeached.”

O’Brien said holding the march in Springfield made the event more accessible to people across the state.

“Marching’s important,” O’Brien said. “At the end of the day, it’s not going to always make the systemic and structural change that needs to happen, but it shows that we are all together for the same purpose.”

Before chants of “Hey hey, ho ho, Donald Trump has got to go” erupted down the street, Shutesbury resident B. Z. Reily said she’s been to marches in Boston and Northampton in previous years. 

“It’s showing that we are really concerned about the future of democracy,” Reily said of the women’s march. “This is one of the most democratic things you can do.”

At the beginning of the day’s rally at City Hall, Rachel Maiore, newly elected Ward 7 Northampton city councilor and director of the Pioneer Valley Women’s March, told the crowd the event’s planning committee was considering a name change for the event.

“If you really think about ‘Pioneer’… it has a terrible colonialist history,” she said, inviting the participants to help brainstorm new names for next year’s march.

Speakers at the event explored subjects such as LGBTQ+ rights, gun violence, air quality, climate change and the importance of voting, especially in a major election year such as 2020.

Zulmalee Rivera, the Springfield chapter organizer of Neighbor to Neighbor, said women of all backgrounds should unite together to “recognize our power … that we fight for the world our grandmothers and mothers prayed for, so our children will have the opportunities this world can offer.”

“When the day comes that our last breath leaves our lungs and doesn’t ever return, that we have to know deep in our hearts, in our bones and in our spirit, that we gave this life everything we could,” Rivera said.

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


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