State College

Women’s March emphasizes progress and challenges in Centre County

Solidarity, strength and support for human rights embodied the Central Pa. Women’s March on Saturday. The march began at the Allen Street Gates and ended at the State College Municipal Building, where several speakers talked about various issues.

The march was planned to raise awareness for the progress made in Centre County, but also the challenges that are still prevalent in the region. Don Hahn, mayor of State College; Elizabeth Goreman, former mayor of State College; and Michael Pipe, chairman of the Centre County Commissioners, all spoke to about 300-500 people who expanded to the second floor of the municipal building.

Rep. Scott Conklin and Centre County District Attorney Bernie Cantorna also spoke at the event.

“This is your stage women,” Cantorna said. “I’m just here to support you.”

The State College march was among many held across the country and the globe on Saturday in support of women’s rights.

Alita Letwin, of State College, said she was marching because she is fearful for democracy in the United States. Letwin said President Donald Trump has “opened the gates” for the growing hatred that is being expressed more freely.

“I think people are much more aware of the need for women’s equality, but it hasn’t been translated into the culture,” Letwin said when speaking about progress in the women’s rights movement. “Equality is a right and that has to be understood to mean that you feel comfortable and free and everything is open to you in terms of possibilities. That isn’t where we are now.”

Letwin was surrounded by signs that read: “A woman’s place is in the House and Senate,” “Build a wall around Trump and I’ll pay for it,” and “I’ve seen smarter cabinets at IKEA.”

Julie Jo Johnston participated in the Women’s March on Washington last January and said it was an “awesome” experience. Johnston, of Philipsburg, said she was continuing to march because she believes in human rights for everyone.

“We hope that we can make a difference in the world,” Johnston said.

Mary McClanahan, of State College, held a sign that read, “I haven’t been this mad since yesterday.” She said she was angry that the United States was becoming “an embarrassment around the world.”

McClanahan said the march is not a be-all and end-all solution to the issues that the community faces, but it is a way for progress to prosper.

“It feels like acknowledging otherwise is tantamount to saying nothing helps. To be involved feels galvanizing to me and that I also have to hope that people see you don’t have to be silent,” McClanahan said.

Michele Hamilton, chapter president of Ni-Ta-Nee NOW, spoke in a more positive light when discussing the progress and challenges in Centre County.

“One thing that has been positive from the State College perspective is that the State College borough now has an LGBTQ task force,” Hamilton said. “That makes me really happy because that means we’re looking at how accommodations, employment and other things from the borough impact LGBTQ citizens and how to improve it. That is very positive.”