A small group of students have had their work cut out for them this week arranging transportation for 30 of their College of the Atlantic peers from Bar Harbor, to Washington D.C., and back for the Women’s March on Washington. Through careful planning, networking, and vigorous fundraising, students Mayah Murchison ’20, Jenny Reichert ’20, and Laura Montanari ’18 have successfully led the grassroots efforts to make sure that the COA community will be well represented on Saturday.
The trio have met regularly since the first days following President-Elect Donald Trump’s election. They were drawn together by a desire to find ways to counter what they saw as divisive, xenophobic policy platforms coming from the Trump administration and pushing past their immediate feelings of hopelessness.
“A lot of us really wanted to take action,” Murchison said. “We wanted to do something, but we felt stuck here with all the protests that were going on around the country.”
For Murchison, getting herself to the march was not going to be enough. She needed to make sure that she was doing all she could to get others there as well. Her efforts will help nearly 10 percent of the COA student body take part in the action.
“It’s the Women’s March,” she said. “I think it’s more important that I move people to be able to go than just going myself.”
We are the strength of our country
As activists around the country were gearing up this week for the March, Montanari took time to read the March’s mission statement at COA’s All College Meeting, a weekly gathering of students, staff, and faculty where important topics are considered and community policy decisions are made.
We stand together in solidarity with our partners and children for the protection of our rights, our safety, our health, and our families - recognizing that our vibrant and diverse communities are the strength of our country.
The rhetoric of the past election cycle has insulted, demonized, and threatened many of us - immigrants of all statuses, Muslims and those of diverse religious faiths, people who identify as LGBTQIA, Native people, Black and Brown people, people with disabilities, survivors of sexual assault - and our communities are hurting and scared. We are confronted with the question of how to move forward in the face of national and international concern and fear.
History in the making
Not everyone headed to the Women’s March from COA will be traveling in the vans. Lena Connolly ’20 will be driving in a car with several others for the 24-hour-plus round trip. She sees this event as her way of taking part in a historical moment, she said.
“People are going to remember this,” Connolly said. “I’ll be able to tell my grandchildren, ‘I was there. I could stand for women in a time when a good portion of the country wouldn’t.’”
At least 200,000 women and allies are expected to turn out for the Women’s March. The main event has inspired over 300 other demonstrations, called Sister Marches, in all 50 states and in 32 countries around the world. Beatrice Butler ’19 will be attending a Sister March held in Boston.
“Elizabeth Warren is going to talk, which is really exciting,” Butler said. “She’s a really powerful political woman in my life. Truly, I’m going to march with my own sister, and stand up with sisters of the world.”
Close to home
For Butler, women’s issues hit very close to home.
“My mom was a doula,” she said. “Babies and pregnancy - that was my first interest. My sisters were totally grossed out by it, but I always just wanted to watch women give birth.”
The day after the election, Butler’s mother talked to her about plans to volunteer with Planned Parenthood, which has been threatened with the withdrawal of federal funding by an influx of GOP leaders in the House, Senate, and White House.
Women’s rights are human rights
Butler and Connolly highlight an important message that the March supports: The event is not simply for the benefit of one particular group. It is explicitly stated in the March’s mission statement that it supports all communities negatively affected by the election, including those who cannot physically participate.
“These women are going to the March to stand for women who cannot,” Connolly said.
In supporting the Women’s March on Washington and other Sister Marches, members of the COA community are underlining a message that seems to have been lost in midst of the election: Women’s rights are human rights.