“For me, the Women's March gave women and all minorities a way to put action and voice to suppressed frustration."
Thousands descended on the Kansas Statehouse last Saturday to show members of the legislature their passion for human rights.
The Women’s March in Washington, D.C. and its sister marches around the world totaled between 3.6 and 4.6 million protesters, making this the largest protest in American history.
A group from McPherson, as well as others from Lindsborg and Moundridge, attended the march on Saturday.
“For me, the Women's March gave women and all minorities a way to put action and voice to suppressed frustration with the way President Trump, and many others, spoke about women, immigrants, people with disabilities, the 'Black Lives Matter' movement, and more,” said Joanna Davidson Smith of McPherson. “It helped me to feel like I was able to do something, to get out and be seen and to show that I did not agree with the divisive and hateful rhetoric that many have voiced in Trumps administration.”
The individual reasons for each person’s desire to march differ greatly, ranging from women’s reproductive rights to protesting the election of President Donald Trump.
“I believe what united all of us who marched, is the real fear that has been caused by the belittling of women, immigrants, (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning), Muslims, persons of color and persons with disabilities. The unifying factor was love,” Davidson Smith said. “When a person or group of people starts to divide others into different camps and making judgments on them, that is extremely dangerous. All human life is valuable. We are marching against hate.”
It’s a challenge to get your bearings in a crowd, which is part of the reason why there are such diverse responses to the Women’s March — not everyone saw the same thing. The celebration of multiple perspectives also fell victim to the diverse responses unleashed online as activities ended that day. Many protesters posting their thoughts on their day were met with photos and comments circulated on social media that called out protesters for littering or for disrupting the peace.
One of these pieces of viral news included photos of trash and deserted protest signs left for city workers in Washington D.C. to collect. According to the National Parks Service, which oversees the maintenance of the National Mall, having the inauguration and a massive protest within two days created a backlog, but staff worked to clear the area in a timely manner.
“In Topeka, I never noticed any trash lying around,” Davidson Smith said. “As an environmental activist, I hate to see litter and from a friend of mine who marched in Washington, she said that the trash cans were overflowing and there were some trying to clean up afterward. We have to remember the size of the crowd when we think of this as well.”
Many protesters, including the group from McPherson, chose to use this march to hear speakers present on a variety of topics, while others expressed their deep rage at inequality, which was displayed in lewd or vulgar signs or fights.
Though frustration and negativity was present, many maintained the peaceful protest and left feeling energized.
“I felt good about being a part of the march. Seeing that so many people are concerned about the state of our state and country was encouraging,” said Dayle Toews of McPherson. “The group seemed like a cohesive group of people trying to make the country a better place to live. It is so important to have conversations about these issues, because it isn't right to prohibit certain groups from the rights that we all should have and it helps us to understand what we can do to have more justice for all.”
The march has ended, but the activism has not.
“We know we must continue working to influence our representatives, at both the state and federal levels. This was a call for many of us to be brave in speaking out our own beliefs,” said Jean L. Hendricks of McPherson. “We live in a divided country; that is so obvious around this recent election. If we are to live together, we better learn how to do so peacefully. My carload of women agreed that we must all learn to listen and try to understand each other.”