Hundreds of thousands of women (and men) took to the streets of Washington, D.C. on the day of President Trump’s January 21 inauguration to rally against positions he’d taken and statements he made that were regarded by many as offensive to basic human dignity. Sister marches in other cities brought out hundreds of thousands more, many of the participants wearing pink “pussycat” hats to reference the president’s astonishing comments recorded about the freedom he felt as a celebrity to grab women at will by their private body parts. The marchers filled the streets not only in solidarity, but to send a message, and remind legislators of their elected duties to uphold human rights and preserve the environment.
It’s been nearly a year now since that day, the largest single-day protest in our country’s history. But the movement of women’s solidarity is far from over, expressed locally by members of “March On! New Paltz.” The group recently announced the launch of a national March On movement it’s helping to organize in order to maintain the momentum.
The group’s stated intention is “to take concrete, coordinated actions at the federal, state and local levels to impact elections and take our country in a better direction.” Led by women but open to all, the organization plans to put its “march-roots community” at the heart of the political process, “forging consensus and crowdsourcing the types of candidates to support or oppose and which issues to prioritize.”
Founding member Alexandria Wojcik says the next steps for the group will be to organize anniversary events for “J21” — shorthand for January 21, the date of the president’s inauguration — and to make the most of future elections and push for change with their program, “March On the Polls 2018,” in which marchers will flood the streets and literally march voters to the polls.
“We’re trying to figure out now how to make this work,” says Wojcik, who also happens to be vice-chair of the New Paltz Democratic Committee and the deputy village clerk. “How do we galvanize the efforts of the millions who took to the streets on January 21, and not only keep it going, but gain some ground. It’s more than just resisting at this point. We can’t just be a protest movement; it has to be sophisticated, tactical and policy-based.”
The national March On movement includes a number of affiliates so far. In addition to the branch in New Paltz, the list includes Women’s March Bay Area, San Diego, San Luis Obispo and San Jose in California, March On groups in Maryland, Massachusetts, Oklahoma, Kentucky, Texas, Colorado and Minnesota, Seattle Women Marching Forward in Washington, Women’s March on Asheville in North Carolina, March On Veterans, We March On in Connecticut, Women’s March Chicago, Take Action AAC in Maryland, Tri-County Women’s Coalition in New York and Women’s March Alliance of New York City.
Each of the affiliated March On groups around the country will take on their own projects, Wojcik says, with the local emphasis here in New Paltz currently on climate issues and March On the Polls 2018.
The core group of March On! New Paltz is formed of approximately ten women who talk or share a group text every day to keep informed, says Wojcik.
The group was behind the second annual “SlutWalk” this past September through the streets of New Paltz, in which marchers protested “victim-shaming” in cases of rape, deliberately dressing in “provocative” clothing to highlight the notion that victims “ask for it” by the way they dress instead of placing the blame where it belongs, on the perpetrators.
The group’s co-founder Rachel Labere has been working on creating offshoots of the group, as well, says Wojcik, after organizers of the women’s marches held in January encouraged participants to form small hubs to keep things active. “We want to make sure that anyone who is doing anything in this area has the opportunity to join our group if they want to.”
Anyone interested in joining March On! New Paltz can check out the organization on Facebook, she says, where all kinds of events to participate in are posted.