Strong local presence in women’s marches

Theresa Lyn Widman of Stone Ridge was in D.C. (photo by Jennifer Schwartz Berky)

A time of crisis is when family steps up for one another — or in this case, makes many steps. Saturday’s marches around the country exemplified just that.

The Women’s March on Washington’s New York Upstate/Hudson Valley Chapter (WMWNY) sent 53 buses, and coordinated another 103 buses ranging from the Canadian border to the lower Hudson Valley, all full of men, women and kids to the nation’s capital on Saturday, Jan. 21 to march in one of largest protests in American history.


Six buses chartered through WMWNY left Dietz Stadium early Saturday morning, loaded with marchers of all ages and backgrounds, ranging from remote, far-flung Catskill addresses to the heart of the City of Kingston, and returned back to Kingston that night. WMWNY organizers said they sent another two buses from Woodstock, three from Rhinebeck and three from Saugerties.

WMWNY organizer Maryanne Asta of Woodstock said chartering the buses was a breathtaking example of pay-it-forward goodness. Asta donated $5,000 to help make sure that everyone could go, regardless of their ability to pay. But then, Asta reported, the effort took on a life of its own as thousands of marchers donated bus seats, hotel rooms, clear plastic backpacks, hand warmers, sandwiches, snacks and more to one another. Asta said that they even sponsored a bus from the Onondaga Nation by Syracuse, and one for the Mohawk Nation on the Canadian border. Both buses, she said, were entirely filled. Asta said WMWNY also bought participants Metro cards, however D.C. ultimately was so overwhelmed with marchers that they opened up the Metro for free.

Jean Douglas, the Kingston bus coordinator, said that since the Metro cards did not get used that WMWNY is collecting them to donate to women in need in D.C. who need to take public transportation. Douglas added that Kingston police were at Dietz when the marchers boarded and returned, which did not happen until 1 a.m. Sunday morning, to provide a secure environment.

‘Insanely proud of her’

Claudia Corrigan D’Arcy of Kingston brought her 16 year-old daughter, Scarlett, to the march, believing that an important role of mothering is “to learn the power of the collective female voice.” The duo carried Star Wars-themed signs, and wore matching silver combat boots. Corrigan D’Arcy said that her daughter got from it exactly what she had hoped. “I woke up Sunday morning to read her replies to three different ‘old white men’ who dared to question the purpose of the march,” said Corrigan D’Arcy. “Normally, she would not participate on a political thread like that, but this time, she stood her ground and served up responses to these doubters that put them right in their place. I was insanely proud of her and knew that she had felt the power of her own voice. It’s sad that another generation must continue to fight on for women’s rights, but I know she is ready.”

Onteora High School sophomore Adrianne Cox marched with her mom Rebecca Balzac, of Shokan. Cox said she decided to go to the march the moment she learned about it. “Because so many of the things Trump has said, before, during and after the campaign, were absolutely disgusting,” said Cox.  I feel the majority of his campaign was fueled by hatred, and somehow that got him elected president. I marched because so many people have been targeted and attacked — verbally and physically — because of their race, religion, gender, heritage, or sexuality, and it’s terrible.”

Cox’s mom was proud to have her daughter at her side. “After the election I wanted [Cox] to know that she can’t take it for granted that she will be given the rights and respect that she deserves as a woman, that she can’t be complacent, and also the difficulty for women to fight for their rights,” said Balzac.

Raya Dennis, a SUNY Ulster student from Rosendale, said she marched in New York City, “for a million reasons” and was impressed the minute she rolled in. “When we arrived, we expected to have to find the march, but as soon as we exited Grand Central, the march was in front of us. As well as behind us, and on all sides of us.” Dennis was impressed by the different people she saw. “I was so surprised by the diversity of the crowd; Women, men, old, young, white, black, Asian. Just every kind of person you could imagine. I loved it.  It definitely drove the message home.”

‘It felt like home’

Some marchers stayed more local, like the owner of The Anchor in Kingston, Brandy Walters, who chose to go to Albany instead, joining 7,000 more of the same peaceful demonstrating by both men and women. The morning march at the Walkway Over the Hudson saw as many as 7,700.

Walters said the men’s presence at the march surprised and made an impression on her, saying she thought the mix was about “50-50.”  Walters was even more impressed with the presence of dads. “Also, there were so many fathers there with their daughters, they seemed so proud … It was calm and loving, everyone was happy to be there; kind and helpful to each other. No anger, no pushing. It felt like home, we were all different but one.” Walters, like many when reflecting on their reasons for marching, got emotional, “Now I am crying. But there is something really powerful too about a father wanting his daughter to be strong … I mean, this should be a given, but it is also exactly what I feel like we are trying to fight for in a lot of way.”

The crowd at the Woodstock march. (photo by Dion Ogust)

Rich Romano, a nurse in Lake Katrine, went alone to both the Poughkeepsie march and New York City’s march, later in the day. Romano said he was treated with respect by marchers. “I marched in support of women’s rights, education, science, human rights and treating people the same way that I want to be treated,” said Romano. “I’m at odds with the fact that Trump hasn’t denounced the violent and racist acts that have been done in his name.”

The range of Kingston’s marchers was a small reflection of the greater whole: clergy, cashiers, retirees, students, teachers, unemployed, doctors. Even some local law-makers marched, such as Rosendale Councilwoman Jennifer Metzger.  Kingston County Legislator, Jennifer Schwartz Berky carpooled with friends to D.C. and stayed over.  Schwartz-Berky said this march was not a “protest” in her mind, but rather about demonstrating what’s possible. She too was struck by the diversity. “One African-American retiree told me he came from Virginia, and his employer screwed him out of Social Security,” she said, adding that she heard stories like that all from people feeling disenfranchised. She felt the Washington march was a true representation of the people, being 40 percent nonwhite, she said. Schwartz Berky carried a sign bearing a quote from former president Obama, that read, “Don’t boo, vote.”

A few of the thousands at the Walkway Over the Hudson march. (photo by Dan Barton)

Clinton Avenue United Methodist minister the Rev. Darlene Kelley marched in her collar. “The streets of D.C. overflowed with a sea of pink hats and poster board,” said Kelley. “The air was full of love, but it was peppered with resistance. Everywhere you looked, folks who believed the same things you and yours believed were rising up, chanting, singing, demanding — justice, equality, respect and democracy. It was one of the most powerful outdoor events of my life.”

Carla Lesh, a museum worker in Kingston, remarked on the overall positive vibe of the D.C. march and said everyone she encountered was friendly and helpful.  Like all the marchers, she felt called to march on behalf of others. “I decided to go to the Women’s March in Washington D.C. to gain strength for the ongoing struggle for social justice, and to show women stuck in repressive situations that they are not alone.” Many marchers brought signs bearing the names of other women who could not be present.

Almost every marcher expressed surprise at the amount of people there and for the presence of men and children. Every marcher said they experienced an overall positive vibe while there, and expressed gratitude that the day lacked any tension or negativity.  Though it was a long, grueling day, not one marcher complained about her or his own personal discomforts during it.

Practically every marcher interviewed also said the march was life changing. Many marchers said they are taking the 100-Day Challenge, presented by filmmaker Michael Moore, in which each day a person is challenged to take political action steps daily, such as writing a congressman.

Others plan to fight in other ways. “The march is not the end game, it is just the beginning,” said Asta. “We are not protesting — you just try to hold back with protesting — we are for forward movement.”