On January 21, the day after President Donald Trump’s inauguration, there was a women’s march in Washington DC, as well as more than 600 sister marches worldwide, and even here in Winchester, Virginia. The march in DC included local participants, teachers Ms. Hillyer and Ms. Spitzer, and students Chira Bell, Claire Lympus, and Kaelyn Speakman marched in Winchester.
The two English teachers who went to the Women’s March on Washington this Saturday, originally heard about it through social media and old coworkers. The mission statement for the march, from the Women’s March on Washington website, was to stand together as a diverse group of people–including people of the LGBTQIA community, people of different races and religious faiths, and those who have suffered sexual assault–to show that “women’s rights are human rights.”
“I just want to put my boots on the ground,” Ms. Hillyer said before the march. “To say that I don’t want to lose the rights, as women, that we have gained in the past 47 years.” Ms. Spitzer said, “Discourse is important, and if I expect my students to uphold respect for one another, then politicians should do the same.” Though it is never mentioned on the website if the march was pro- or anti-Trump, the march is supporting some liberal ideas that Trump does not, citing that the election “has insulted, demonized, and threatened many of us – immigrants of all statuses, Muslims…” which are groups that President Trump has made promises to ban from entering the U.S. during his campaign. Neither of the teachers interviewed mentioned Trump–or Hillary Clinton, the democratic nominee–by name during their pre-march interviews, but they did comment on the election.
Ms. Spitzer said that the election did not change her own perspective on women’s rights. However, she said,“[The election] kind of brought women’s rights to the forefront in a fresh light.” Ms. Hillyer said, “For the first time in a long time, I’m scared that [women’s rights] might be lost rather than gained.” She went on to say that there is still much work to be done when it comes to
women’s rights, namely the right to “equal pay for equal jobs” and women’s rights to access medical care, both of which are cited as principles on the march’s website. “I certainly wouldn’t want to see [history] go backwards,” Ms. Hillyer added.
On the topic of why it is important to participate in protests and marches, Ms. Hillyer, who teaches Antigone as a part of her English 10 classes, said, “I think it’s important to stand up for what you believe and if you have a moral feeling about something, I think it’s important to voice it. I think your voice should be heard.” Ms. Spitzer said, “I think we, as citizens of this country, have a voice and I think that voice shouldn’t only be exercised through voting.”
Several students, including Juniors Chira Bell and Kaelyn Speakman and Sophomore Claire Lympus, participated in the local march. Chira Bell went to the Winchester march last minute when she and her best friend Micaela McCann, who graduated from Millbrook last year, were at the Tropical Smoothie Café. They remembered that there was a march that day and decided to go. Kaelyn Speakman went with her parents and met up with her theatre friends, one of whom, Natasha, had a role in organizing the march and acted as “emcee,” wherein she carried around a bullhorn and led chants. Claire Lympus, who was inspired by reading the Feminine Mystique, went with her mother and family friend. All three students remarked on how peaceful the marchers were and how they were met with very little negative reactions from the public, except for what Lympus described as an “adult, white male” who had a large pickup truck. Bell said that the man circled the area several times with his truck, and “he would pump his diesel out and beep his horn.” She also said that there was another man who yelled, “Make America great again, go Trump,” from his car at the gathered marchers. Speakman said that when she posted pictures of the march to her SnapChat, she was met with “bad feedback,” but she said, “You don’t let it get to you, and you just stand up for what you think.”
Ms. Hillyer did not see any negative reactions from the public during the march in DC, she even remarked on how the “women were so kind to each other.” Ms. Spitzer said that she “didn’t see anything firsthand” but she did see a group of “hecklers.” She also said that the march in DC was “completely peaceful, except there was one instance where someone threw a water bottle,” and Ms. Hillyer agreed that the march stayed peaceful. However, both teachers said that due to the large number of people attending, the march was disorganized. Ms. Spitzer said, “The problem with the march was that the permit was for 200,000 people and I think somewhere around half a million people showed up. So we couldn’t actually get on the path to the march, so people just started creating their own route. And then at one point the park service rerouted us to go a different way, they didn’t want anyone around the White House because they thought the group was too big, from what I understand.” According to Ms. Hillyer, “You just went with the flow.” In the days after the march, the organizers posted on the Women’s March on Washington website that there had
been over a million marchers just in DC with five million around the world.
Both teachers were surprised by the turnout of marchers in DC. Ms. Hillyer said, “Yes, I was surprised when we got on the Metro and were just in like sardines, and then to see the sea of pink hats…” Lympus said that her family had bets on how many people would show up. “My dad said fifty, my mom said a hundred, and my family friend said like a hundred and fifteen,” she said. Speakman said, “I expected there to be maybe like a couple hundred, but apparently somebody said that there was up to twelve-hundred people there.” Bell was surprised specifically by the people who had come and where they were from. She said, “I made friends with twins who were from Front Royal, I made friends with this group of girls who all came from Fairfax, and then I had an old lady walk up to me and tell me that she was here from Culpeper with her friends. People who couldn’t go to DC came to Winchester and I thought it was really neat.” All students and teachers noticed that there was a wide age demographic represented at their marches. Ms. Hillyer said that she saw “older people who had marched in the ‘60s down to ten- and twelve-year-olds that wore signs [that said] ‘be kind.’”
Ms. Hillyer said that she thought the march was a success but said that she would like to go to another march because she thought that this one would need “follow up.” According to the Women’s March on Washington website, they are organizing a long term campaign called “10 Actions/100 Days.” This being her first march, Ms. Spitzer said that she would like to go to a smaller one should she ever go again. She also described the march as “a starting point for making sure there’s equality amongst all groups of people in this country, which I think our president is going to hopefully do.” Similarly, Lympus said, “I feel like it’s the end of the beginning, so it’s not really a success yet, but I feel like we’re getting there,” and she said that she would go to another march to “show what I believe in.” Speakman thought of the march as a success since there were marches located on all seven continents and said that given the opportunity she would go to another march for women’s rights, and also for “gay rights, I’d go [to] any marches that have to do with minorities.” Bell called the march a success and said that she would go to another, saying, “Oh my goodness, yes, 110%, definitely.”
Information for this article was provided by https://www.womensmarch.com/ and information on the marches in DC and Winchester can be found there.