Politics & Government

Locals march in D.C. to advocate for women’s rights, equality

Marchers line up during the Women’s March on Washington Saturday, Jan 21, 2017.
Marchers line up during the Women’s March on Washington Saturday, Jan 21, 2017. psheehan@centredaily.com

Every time the Metro doors opened on Saturday morning, those already on the train cheered.

Clad in “pussy” hats and carrying protest signs, they welcomed fellow marchers headed downtown to participate in the Women’s March on Washington — the purpose of which was to speak out for women’s and civil rights.

The march, which was originally permitted for 200,000 attendees, drew an estimated 500,000 people to the nation’s capital the day after President Donald Trump took the oath of office.

With about 600 marches — and 3 million people — in countries across the world, more people protested Trump’s inauguration than celebrated it on Capitol Hill on Friday.

A rally on Independence Avenue near the Capitol kicked off the day with musical performances from the likes of Alicia Keys and speeches from America Ferrera and Gloria Steinem, among many others.

Originally scheduled to start at 1:15 p.m., the march was delayed by more than an hour when rumors swirled that there wouldn’t actually be a march because the whole route was full of people. But then it started, and people yelled that they were “fired up, ready to go.”

Protesters of all ages and ethnicities made their voices heard with chants and expressed their disdain with signs such as “omg gop wtf,” “groper-in-chief” and “grab him by the Putin.”

Pam Monk, a lecturer in Penn State’s College of Communications, got on a bus at 4 a.m. in State College to participate in the march.

As a Democrat, she said she’s used to her candidates losing. But even so, she took Hillary Clinton’s defeat personally.

She described the march as awesome, a great kickoff event.

“Whether people can maintain their fervor, and really turn it into something when they get home, that remains to be seen — but that is a really good test of resolve,” Monk said.

The march helped her realize that she’s not alone — that other people share her concerns and feelings.

“Something that’s also encouraged me is that if Hillary Clinton had … won the election, we wouldn’t be here. And we wouldn’t be getting ready to do all this work,” Monk said. “But the work still would’ve needed to be done. She couldn’t have done it herself.”

She said individuals have to flex their own power but still work together to defend their rights against the new administration.

She cited Trump’s Cabinet nominees and his use of social media to belittle people as reasons she doesn’t feel like she needs to give him a chance now that he’s president.

“He’s my employee. ... He works for me now, not the other way around,” she said.

Amy Ferro and her mom, Carol Packard, both of State College, also hopped on a bus from central Pennsylvania — one of about a dozen from Happy Valley.

It was cool to be with so many passionate people from all over the country and world, Ferro said, and running into Sen. Cory Booker, D-New Jersey, was a highlight.

“It’s history,” Packard said, and she wanted be part of it.

“I think it’s made a very bold statement, and I would not be at all surprised if more things like this happened because it was such a wonderful experience,” Packard said.

Not only were there women of all ages, but there were a lot of men too, which was rewarding, she said.

A volunteer for Hillary Clinton’s campaign, Donna Gibbons said she’s been sad and surprised since the election.

But, the march was positive, the people were kind and “the energy was spectacular,” she said.

“You have to stand up. You can’t just sit back and let things happen,” Gibbons, of Boalsburg, said. “You have to be part of the process and part of the solution and let your voice be heard.”

And she has hope going forward.

“I believe that people are going to speak up,” she said, “and people are going to be involved and be active and call their senators and representatives and not just sit back and let the next four years happen without some resistance.”

Sarah Rafacz: 814-231-4619, @SarahRafacz