Only a day after President Trump was inaugurated into office, more than five million people worldwide participated in the Women’s March.
Many Lewis and Clark Community College faculty and staff members participated in the march, including L&C’s Associate Dean of Adult Education Val Harris, who was one of thousands who gathered in Washington D.C. Jan. 21.
“My colleague and L&C faculty member Christina Chapman inspired me to participate in the march,” L&C’s Associate Dean of Adult Education Val Harris said. “The experience was extremely moving with people from all walks of life, men, women and children, coming together peacefully. We really need to engage in our democracy to make our representatives aware of what we think is important, especially now.”
The St. Louis Women’s March started at 9 a.m. and went on for an hour, eventually ending at Luther Ely Smith Square near the Gateway Arch. After the march and a rally at the end, demonstrators were directed to an Action Fair at a local YWCA.
There, organizations from around the St. Louis area had set up tables where volunteers could sign up to support a number of groups advocating for anything from reproductive rights to women’s shelters to services for the homeless. Many of these organizations will see their funding cut.
“The people I met at the Action Fair were pretty positive and hopeful,” said Stephanie Larson, an attendee at the Action Fair and former L&C student. “They were all eager to explain the way their programs help the community. At the same time, I know that some of these great organizations rely on grants from the Office on Violence Against Women, which is getting cut under Trump. I’m afraid the same thing is going to happen to services for the homeless and Planned Parenthood.”
For some, this was their first time ever attending an event like this.
“I think for a lot of people it was their first time being at something like that – people were taking lots of photos and selfies,” said Ben Rosensweig, an attendee of the march.
Rosensweig said that while he’s been active in local politics, the new election renewed his desire to fight for people’s rights.
“I got involved because my sense of my own well-being included the knowledge that everyone’s rights and lives are being respected, not just my own,” Rosensweig said.
One of the themes of the march was that it takes more than just marching to create change.
“Many civil rights leaders have said that the real evil of this world is not the fact that people are trying to take power away from others, but the fact that those who can help remain silent,” Rosensweig said. “There are a vast majority of people who see the evil and do nothing. They continue to distract themselves from the truth of their capabilities and the truth of the great suffering of this world. So do something. It’s going to take a lot. But change can happen, and you can have great joy in the process.”
Many entities were on hand calling for action. Organizations such as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), American Association of University Women (AAUW), Habitat for Humanity, and Planned Parenthood encouraged people to volunteer.
”It’s important to show up and protest because otherwise politicians will just assume that no one cares what they do,” Larson said. “Usually, I just vote for the people who seem competent. In the next local election, I’m going to lobby candidates about the issues and maybe volunteer in a campaign office.”