Saturday, people gathered all over the nation to honor the anniversary of the Women’s March.
Last year’s march, following the inauguration of President Donald Trump, was historically groundbreaking. On Jan. 21, 2017, women’s marches across the United States drew over three million people, according to The Washington Post, making it one of the largest one-day protests in U.S. history. In addition to demonstrations across the nation, people also came together in women’s marches across the globe. CNN reports that there were hundreds of women’s marches around the world “in cities including Sydney, Berlin, London, Paris, Nairobi, and Cape Town.”
The purpose of this year’s march, like last year’s, was to highlight the struggles and the strengths of women, and to also advocate equal rights for all humans. Saturday’s march took on added significance because of this year’s #MeToo movement surrounding the culture of sexual assault and harassment in society as well as the government shutdown that was also announced on Saturday. One of the reasons for the shutdown – the lasting disagreement over the status of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA – provided protesters with another cause to rally.
One of the women’s marches this year took place in Holland, MI. The demonstration, called the Rally for Commonality, took place at noon in Centennial Park and drew hundreds of people. They’re rallying cry, “We’re Better Together,” accurately represented the tone of the march. People gathered with signs that called for the equal rights and treatment of all people regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, immigration status and religion. Attendees included people of all ages, from babies to older adults.
Dr. Roehling, a professor in Hope College’s psychology department, attended the rally because she “believes in its mission, which is to support rights and fair treatment of people from all backgrounds, genders, religions and sexual orientations and to support public education, research and protection of the planet.” It was also important to Roehling that the protest be peaceful and respectful. She said, “I felt a lot of support from the people at the rally as well as from the community.”
Deborah Coyle, Hope’s Program Coordinator, also attended the rally. In her own words: “My husband and I attended the Holland Rally for Commonality to lend our voices and physical presence to support those who are under siege by the current administration’s rhetoric and policies. We felt reassured by the strong turn out and positive energy of those in attendance. We cannot stay silent in the face of injustice.”
The march began with a performance by the Per Sisterhood women’s choir and ended with a moment of silence for all those who could not attend. For an hour, demonstrators walked around the park, holding signs and chanting. Car horns honked in encouragement as they drove by the marchers.
To acknowledge this year’s awareness of sexual harassment and assault, a large glass sign reading #MeToo in large pink letters was erected for marchers to write their stories and experiences. The sign was placed near River Ave. by the Center for Women in Transition who were partners in hosting the event.
However, despite the inclusive tone of Holland’s march, other marches around the nation drew criticism from some people including Black Lives Matter activists. Activists argued that the marches were not inclusive of people of color and other groups. According to the New York Times, some women felt the marches were “too focused on electing Democrats, at the expense of other issues.” Activists called for marchers to also attend future Black Lives Matter protests and marches for DACA.
Many high-profile activists and celebrities did attend and speak at numerous marches. Actresses including Viola Davis, Scarlett Johansson and Olivia Munn gave speeches as did Cecile Richards, the president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America and Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, a Nevada Democrat.
The resilience of the march shows all that this movement of acceptance and solidarity will have lasting impacts on society.