Angered at threatened rollbacks to women’s rights, local activists gathered Jan. 12 to mobilize for the Women’s March on Washington.
About 20 gathered at the Oberlin Public Library to draft signs for the Saturday march in the nation’s capitol.
Janet Garrett, a retired elementary school teacher and Peace Corps volunteer who has twice run for the U.S. House against Jim Jordan (R-Urbana), will take 52 activists by bus to Washington.
“The point is to give a message that women aren’t going backward,” she said. “We’re full human beings. The sign I’ll be carrying says to see me as the full human being that I am. As a woman, I feel attacked by the rhetoric that’s come out of the Trump administration. A lot of women are feeling the same way and that’s why marches are being organized.”
Trump made any number of troubling comments and policy statements on the presidential campaign trail — from saying he supports a ban on abortion to punishment for women who have abortions to railing against Planned Parenthood. He also belittled female journalists and bragged on tape about sexually assaulting women.
Garrett and others say they won’t sit by and watch women be politically trodden.
She attended the Ohio Sister March on Jan. 15 in Columbus with family. Far from a newcomer to protests or activism, Garrett compared what she saw there to what she experienced speaking out during the civil rights movement and Vietnam War.
“People just kept coming and coming,” she said. “There was a lot of enthusiasm. We heard there were 3,000 people there. It was very positive and very energizing, lots of really cool signs and signing. We encircled the statehouse and dissipated after a couple of hours. We also went to the Our First Stand rally called for by Bernie Sanders. There were another 1,400 people there. It shows how ready people are to stand up for ourselves.”
Maryellen Hamernik of Norwalk originally planned to join a group traveling from Toledo to Washington but promptly sold that ticket when she learned of Oberlin’s bus. It will be the first time she travels to the capital and participates in a protest.
“My sign says, ‘Women’s rights are human rights,’” she said. “I have a lot of things I’d like to say, but as a grandma and in channeling Michelle Obama, I want to go high. My apron is going to say, “Go higher than rude, crude, and lewd.” There’s a lot of different messages here. I just felt very strongly after the election that I needed to do something and this is something a grandmother can do.”
As she helped make a sign, Oberlin councilwoman Linda Slocum said people need to listen to each other more.
“It’s great that we’re sending so many people from Oberlin to have a presence at the march,” she said. “We all really need to try and understand each other in this country. It’s a matter of listening and knowing where we come from.”
Others in attendance at the library said they were ready to speak on issues including health care, climate change, racial inequality, public education, and the rights of immigrants.
“My message is about the environment,” said Judy Lauschman of Oberlin. “I think there’s been backward thinking on what’s happening with climate change. We need to get the word out there that it’s real and we need to do something about it before it’s too late. It’s getting pretty close to being too late. Many people don’t understand the science but some just don’t want to believe it.”
Dwight Call and Al Carroll, both of Oberlin, said they see no better time than the present to take a stand.
“It’s important for us to speak out at this time in support of public education and public health care,” said Call. “It’s about supporting the community of all people who live in this country. As I’ve visited and lived in other countries, I’ve seen nothing wrong with public health care systems in Australia, New Zealand, Sweden, and other places in Europe. Everyone benefits.”
“I personally feel very threatened by this incoming administration,” Carroll said. “I spent some time reading about the rise of the Third Reich in Germany and of fascism. This administration has lots of signs of that. Maybe it could turn out fine, but in my reading of history, you have to start fighting early. I’m very much a supporter of women’s rights, the rights of religious minorities, racial minorities, and immigrants. It’s an opportunity to fight and I’m taking it.”
Ann Francis of Oberlin said the powers that be are out of touch with the average person.
“It’s the people in power,” she said. “They certainly seem like they’re intent on taking certain groups’ rights away. I think they’re going to do anything that people let them get away with. I don’t think they’re in touch with most Americans, even many who vote for them. Our responsibility as those concerned about rights for women, health care, and equality for people of color is to make sure we’re connected to each other. As things worsen, we’ll be here for those groups. They’ll need that support.”
Judy Kruger is traveling with her family from Oberlin to meet the group at the march.
“There will probably be some hostile opposition once we get there but I’ll take it,” she said. “The new president coming in has said things to create a lot of fear about equality for all people. We want our voices to be heard in support of the safety of everyone.”
Jonathan Delozier can be reached at 440-647-3171 or @DelozierNews on Twitter.
Photos by Jonathan Delozier | Oberlin News Tribune Nina Lobe and Oberlin councilwoman Linda Slocum construct signs to be used Jan. 21 at the Women’s March on Washington.