Many marchers’ signs expressed anger and sarcasm (“Nyet My President”), and local activist Rachel Marco-Havens gave a rousing speech on the urgent need for profound grass-roots social change to protect human rights and save the planet. But the mood was generally upbeat as the January 20 Women’s March on Woodstock brought a determined crowd together to protest the policies coming out of Washington DC.
Police estimated the number of people at 1500 to 2000, comparable to the 2017 march, held the day after President Donald Trump’s inauguration. Both last year and this year, women, men, and children marched from Andy Lee Field to Bradley Meadows and then back to the town green, pausing to listen to speakers and musicians and to commune with friends.
As the crowd made its way down Mill Hill Road, Sharon Levy of Buffalo explained why she had come, saying, “Marching is one of the things you can do in this democracy to express your opinions and vent.”
Her companion, Kaye Oelgeschlager of Highland, remarked, “I wanted to be around people who feel like me, and to get more hope from being together.”
“It’s about justice and rights for all,” said Heather Brown of Marlboro, a schoolteacher. “That’s what we try to promote in the classroom.” She was walking with Melanie O’Keefe of Washingtonville, who added, “If our students said some the things our president says, they’re be in a lot of trouble.”
Roger Whispell of Accord, who was being pushed in a wheelchair by his son, said, “We’re trying to get rid of the president who’s in office now. My wife went to Washington last year, but she wanted us both to come to Woodstock this time.”
Signs went past that read, “Hate Cannot Be the New Normal,” and “Resist / Persist / Insist.”
“I believe it’s really important in this moment to come together in solidarity,” said Stacey Nodelman of West Hurley. “We have to remind ourselves and our community that we’re stronger when we fight together.”
Ten-year-old Eve Batista of Phoenicia said she liked being “part of something bigger. Kids aren’t usually as powerful as adults, but here I feel like I’m making a point.”
Two middle-aged women stopped to thank Quinn Cummins-Lune, who was carrying a sign that read “Teen Boys Against Patriarchy.” “I’m here to express my support for women,” said the 16-year-old, “and to stand up for social justice.”
At Bradley Meadows, Jessica Pabon of Kingston was holding a sign that said, “The crisis in Puerto Rico is a feminist issue.” “If your number one issue is domestic violence and sexual assault,” she explained, “you should know that both have skyrocketed in Puerto Rico since the hurricane. There’s no electricity, people have lost their jobs and have money problems,” with devastating effects on the safety of women. The U.S. government has been criticized for delivering only minimal assistance to its citizens in Puerto Rico in the aftermath of the storm.
In front of Sunflower Natural Foods Market, musician Journey Blue Heaven led marchers in several protest songs. Rachel Marco-Havens spoke, making a parallel between exploitation of women and the abuse of “our mother, the earth” through pollution, fracking, and other activities of industry that poison water supplies, threatening human life.
“Every one of us is standing at an intersection of the last hellride of patriarchal domination,” she declared, including girls held up to the Barbie doll standard of beauty and boys oppressed by the attitude that “boys will be boys.” She asserted the need for change from the ground up, for parents to examine the way they raise their children and for all individuals to examine their own unthinking collusion with the patriarchal power structure.
“We have to construct new systems,” said Marco-Havens. “We need a ‘Wetriarchy.’”
On the way back up the hill, a woman was carrying a sign that stated, “Never-the-less she persisted.”
At the Village Green, Jennifer DuBois sang, “I just want to press my heart to your heart and heal something.” Alba Giron, the town board liaison to the Spanish-speaking community, spoke about “a lot of friends who are afraid of being separated from their families” and told her own story of immigration to the U.S.
Town supervisor Bill McKenna thanked the march organizers and the police who were directing traffic. He also spoke about the recent formation of a Woodstock Human Rights Commission, thanks to the efforts of a group of local citizens concerned about the rights of immigrants. “I’m proud that a small community like Woodstock is setting a positive example of how things should be done,” said McKenna, “and putting it out there to those in Washington who have lost their way.”