Why I Marched in the Women’s March on Washington

On Saturday morning Ms Soapbox boarded the Red Arrow bus from Calgary to Edmonton to join her friends supporting the Women’s March on Washington.

My journey was considerably shorter than the one taken by Edmontonian Michelle Brewer who joined the horde of Canadians traveling to ground zero—Washington, DC.

But it’s the message, not the miles, that count.

women-s-march

So why did I attend a rally billed as “a non-violent, inclusive and intersectional protest to stand for and support the rights of all women, all religious communities, all political affiliations, cis or transgender and all sexual orientations”?

Because Donald Trump crossed so many lines in his bid for the presidency…and was rewarded with the White House.

Because Canada’s Trump-lite politicians are taking notes as they formulate their own bids for power.

Because conservative think tanks like the Manning Centre are inviting Trump campaign advisors to teach them “how Donald Trump won and what Canadian conservatives can learn from it.”

And because conservatives need to understand that Canadians, unlike Americans, don’t scare easily.

If there was any doubt in anyone’s mind that Canadian women will stand up for their rights, it was put to bed by the speakers at the WMW—Edmonton.

n-nasra-adem-570

Nasra Adem Edmonton’s Youth Poet Laureate

There were many great speakers but the two who captured my heart were Marni Panas, a transgender activist, who responded to a heckler by looking them dead in the eye and saying:  “Listen, I have heard you, I love you, but it’s my turn to talk” and Nasra Adem, Edmonton’s Youth Poet Laureate, who shouted:  “I’m responsible for you, you’re responsible for me.  We got us!”

So here’s my message to the powers-that-be and the powers-that-wanna-be:  There’s a line you do NOT cross in your bid for power—it’s called fundamental human rights.

Or as the marchers in Brazil so eloquently put it:  Let’s be clear here:  you mess with one of us, you mess with all of us.

So thank you WMW Organizers for giving us the opportunity to reaffirm our faith in humanity.

And thank you everyone who couldn’t attend and marched with us in spirit.

We know who you are and we love you!

Note: updated to correct Marni Panas’ response to the heckler.

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32 Responses to Why I Marched in the Women’s March on Washington

  1. Erin says:

    Thank you for marching for me. One of my daughters was there as well. I am by turns inspired and hopeful, then frightened and despairing. Saturday was a good day!

    • Erin, I know exactly what you mean. What I found tremendously uplifting was the number of young people in the audience and speaking from the steps of the Legislature. Marni and Nasra were outstanding. There was another young woman, Reakash Walters, who said it was fine and good to sit in our safe coffee houses and have the same old conversations with our like-minded friends if we wanted to effect change and build coalitions we had to get out there and do something. She said she never dreamed in her wildest dreams she’d be working with a progressive conservative MLA on carding, but there she was. Smart girl.

  2. Derek Coke-Kerr says:

    Beat up old Pc backing you all the way. Too many of my old PC warriors have forgotten th e P in PC. 😢

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

    • Derek I keep hoping that this rally will spark a resurgence in the “progressive” conservatives. I was bowled over when I heard 4000 people attended the Calgary rally. This is twice the number who made it to the Edmonton rally. Not only did the Calgary WMW organizers have less time than the Edmonton organizers to pull the Calgary rally together, Calgary is the home of hard line conservatism. Many of the founders of the Unite Alberta group are from Calgary and of course it’s Jason Kenney’s home. That gives me hope that there is still room for progressives in the PC party, but they’ll have to reclaim their Peter Lougheed roots, they can’t let Kenney steal their party right out from underneath them.

  3. Rose says:

    Thank you for being there when I could not. It was truly inspiring to see the grand turnout of positive women not afraid to stand up for what it right. Bravo to you all!

    • You’re very welcome Rose. This march takes on even more significance when you consider all the people who supported each person in the march. In my case I was supported by my husband, 2 daughters, 3 sisters and countless friends. So if you assume each marcher had, oh let’s say, 6 people cheering from them at home, or even half that, the support for the WMW rallies was huge.

  4. Beata Izabela says:

    Thank you for article as always inspiring. My friend remind me a poem of Pastor Martin Niemöller
    “First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
    Because I was not a Socialist.
    Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
    Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
    Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
    Because I was not a Jew.
    Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”
    This is why woman were marching. Thank you all. Keep marching.

    • Beautifully said Beata. I was pleased to see Jewish leaders speak out against Trump’s plans to establish a Muslim registry. They’re calling for all citizens, Jewish or not, to register as Muslim in order to confuse ICE and to show solidarity with Muslims. It’s a creative solution and one that demonstrates the principle the Brazilian protesters made: If you mess with one of us, you mess with all of us.
      If this march is any indication Trump is in for a very rough ride.

  5. jvandervlugt says:

    Thank you very much for marching. It was very moving seeing all the marches, big and small all around the world.

    • Thanks Joanna. Ultra-conservatives characterized the rally as a genital based, blame men, hate democracy, anti-capitalistic mess, which is really bizarre given that there was not one negative word said about men or capitalism and the only reason we were all assembled on the steps of the Legislature was to ensure that our democratic human rights were preserved and continued to flourish. With respect to the comment about genitals, apparently for these ultra-conservatives it’s OK for Trump to grab women by the genitals, but not OK for women to wear woolly pink hats. Weird.

      • Carlos Beca says:

        Well Susan for these ultra-conservatives everything that is weird and aggressive is game. Genitals seems to be a word they somehow get excited about and allow themselves, like Trump, to do whatever they think is their right. We know that Trump has been accused of treating women like his possessions and so none of this is a surprise.
        A Person not born in the US is not allowed to become president, but an American that does not pay taxes, apparently even rapes women and has 3000 litigation cases unresolved, seems fair game.
        I was never big on respect for the US but this election and inauguration has put the US in a failed state status with a big army and nuclear power. The same status I have for Russia.

      • jvandervlugt says:

        Well those who called the March down and made rude comments obviously felt threatened and so they should be. Do not underestimate a woman.

      • Joanna and Carlos, the depths to which these trolls will sink never ceases to amaze me. I’m following the WMW Edmonton Facebook page. This morning we got a notice saying “trolls [have been] posting and attempting to intimidate those who attended the March”. The organizers are now going through the feed weeding out these idiots. Think about that for a moment, a bunch of women and men attend a rally to support human rights and these crackpots search through the internet to find their Facebook page so they can harass the people who attended. If they’re that fussed about whatever it is they think we’re doing I wish they’d stage their own rally. Surely that would be more courageous than sitting at a computer posting stupid insults and then puffing up their chests and thinking “there I showed them!”. Pathetic.

  6. Brent McFadyen says:

    Susan I love your work for human kind. You need to always send Trump related posts to the NY Times and all the major papers .

    • Thanks Brent, I hadn’t thought about that, but you’ve reminded me that one of the suggestions the WMW organizers made about continuing the momentum was for participants to stay engaged, and that included sending letters to the editor about issues of concern.

  7. Claudette Whiting says:

    Thank you Susan. I was also moved into feeling hopeful with the 5000 or so Calgarians who attended the Women’s March. Now I wonder how we can we build on this momentum? How do we effectively deal with these isms that bring humanity to its knees? How can we move these respectful and thoughtful conversations into public discourse, on public transit, on the streets, in our schools, in our homes?

    • Claudette, these are excellent questions. The WMW organizers have set out a 10 point action plan. #1 is to send a postcard to your elected officials (municipal, provincial and federal) about a topic dear to your heart and posting a picture of it on social media under the #whyImarch hashtag before sending it off to the politicians. This is a good start. I’m sure the WMW people will provide further suggestions about how to engage in thoughtful public discourse which is really what is necessary if we’re to actually engage everyone in these issues. Here’s the link to the WMW facebook page. I’m sure we’ll see a lot of helpful information coming from them in the next few days. https://www.facebook.com/wmwcanada/

  8. Kathaleen Quinn says:

    Marni also said to the heckler-a woman I believe, “I love you” Thank you for your post.

    • Kathaleen, you’re absolutely right. Marni was so effective in dealing with the heckler that I’d forgotten she told them she loved them. I’ve corrected the post to reflect this.
      Marni gave an incredibly powerful speech. One line I’ll never forget is when she said “we are just one election away from losing the rights and freedoms we spent decades fighting for”. Amen!

  9. Well said Susan, gracias. I was able to partake in the gathering in Edmonton as well – remarkable energy/diverse and embracing crowd; a sense of renewed belonging – I felt welcomed. Keep up the good writing amiga. Kind regards | LCA

  10. Thank you Leo. You’re so right about the energy and the general feeling of acceptance. There were only a few people in the crowd who weren’t there in support.
    One of the strangest things I saw was a poster that said “Alberta families for POTUS Trump”. It made me wonder whether these people understood that when Trump reduces taxes for the wealth and abolishes Obamacare the lives of many American families is going to get a whole lot tougher. This goes to the point raised by Claudette–we need to find a way to have thoughtful conversations about critical issues, it’s the best way to avoid jumping to conclusions based on “dog whistle” politics.

  11. ronmac says:

    “Because Donald Trump crossed so many lines in his bid for the presidency…and was rewarded with the White House…”

    What about those lines crossed by Hilary? Like that little matter of those two million missing votes in the Democratic primary in California that may have well cost Bernie Sanders the nomination.

    Ok, I can see why Trump has become a symbol of intolerance for many, but let’s consider this fun fact. Who was the first private club owner in Palm Beach, Fla. to admit openly gay couples? None other than Donald Trump.

    • Carlos Beca says:

      Ronmac I agree with you. The political class is in chaos all over the world and voters are fed up with it. This created instability and Donald Trump is the result. The same is happening in Europe. If catastrophe comes out of all of this, and if it is not nuclear war, maybe then we can establish something better. I do not believe humans are at a level where we can resolve matters like this peacefully. We are definitely a rough species.
      Donald Trump does not have ethics or morals, he will use whatever benefits him. He has not paid taxes since 1975 but he does not mind at all wasting other peoples taxes. This gay example is just one of them. He is a crook in my books but a very smart one and it seems that Justin Trudeau is going to be chewed up big time. Picture the Dalai Lama doing business with Don Corleone.

  12. Ronmac: I focused on the lines Trump crossed because he won notwithstanding his attacks on blacks, Muslims, Hispanics, and women (there’s a reason why KKK leader David Duke tweeted a gleeful “we did it” to Trump and I don’t think it’s because Trump opened a club that admitted openly gay couples). Albertans are not immune to divisive political campaigns either, that’s why I joined the March. I wanted politicians who may be tempted to use Trump-style politics to understand that there are many many Albertans who will not reward them for such behavior.

    Carlos, I agree with your take on Trump and on politics in general. It’s hard to figure out how to deal with it, but I think Jane Mansbridge, a political scientist from Harvard, summarized the impact of this March very well in this morning’s G&M. She said it was unprecedented–more than 3 million people participated across the US and another 260,000 participated worldwide–and the participants knew Trump and the Republicans were not going to be affected by these demonstrations “…so that’s not the goal…this is citizens speaking to other citizens and saying: Pay attention.”

    We should have been paying attention a long time ago. John Ralston Saul in his book The Collapse of Globalism identified the problem way back in 2005. It’s taken us 12 years to catch up with him.

    • Carlos Beca says:

      Yes John Ralston Saul has been ahead of us for a long time.
      I fully agree with you that these marches are definitely important and I think that it is this type of message and a lot more that is going to destroy them. They will self implode, there is no way they can hide all their true values forever. There is a problem that it seems that many Canadians were also hiding and are now participating in this crap but they will regret it because this is not acceptable and sooner or later the turn around is inevitable. We let it go too far but I am still optimist and you can bet your money that if this gets worse I will be there even if civil disobedience is necessary.

      Kevin O’Leary is ahead of them all in the polls or the polls are already bought out and lying which would not be surprising.
      Amazing. The man is disgusting but so are the politicians that created this environment.

      • Carlos, I think you’re right about the Canadians who’ve kept their true feelings hidden but now are emboldened by Trump’s election and comments by people like Leitch to come out of the shadows and attack women, minorities, Muslims, immigrants, etc.
        I was sad to see they’ve driven Stephen Khan out of the PC leadership race. He said he’s been receiving racist and Islamaphobic emails from new party members (wonder who they’re supporting) some of whom have accused him of being a jihadi.
        These people are bananas and must be stopped.

      • Carlos Beca says:

        Yes Susan this must be stopped, I wonder how? I now fully understand how Hitler was capable of energizing Germany and commit the crimes he did. I am absolutely amazed how here in Alberta a guy like Jason Kenney comes in and takes over the PC party and he is already making the decisions as if he owns it. It is obvious to me that one can only do that when people actually are behind you. A lot of people obviously are bullies in disguise. Never mind racism. I no longer know how far this wave is going to go. With Trump in the US it seems many more Canadians than I thought possible, are waiting for an opportunity to show how low they can go. Very sad indeed. I really thought we were better than this. No reaction whatsoever about what is going on with the PC party and the Wildrose other than Lorne Gunther finally coming out as a big fan of Bryan Jean. No surprise, after all they have the same minuscule brain. I am sorry the aggressive thoughts but if we do not react to these idiots we will be in the slaughterhouse soon. These people are running over everything and everyone. Time to react to this before it is too late.

      • Carlos you asked how this can be stopped. I think we’re seeing a growing awareness of how dangerous Trump et al will be if they’re not stopped. The Women’s March on Washington and the protests condemning the Muslim ban together with the ACLU stepping in and the public tweeting and posting what they’re seeing is sending a clear message–this has to stop. People are calling upon their elected representatives to shut Trump down now. We have to do the same with Kenney, O’Leary and Leitch.

  13. david says:

    Eloquently – and simply said Susan. I wish I’d been there!
    Perhaps Trump’s real contribution to the world is in awakening and igniting our collective valuing and fighting for our hard-fought rights and freedoms (and attendant responsibilities!)

  14. Thanks David. I’ve read many comments from women who said they didn’t know they were activists until Trump was elected. One young woman said it was the realization that he pushed ALL the buttons and still won that caused her to get on a plane in Montreal to join the march in Washington. It took a lunatic to wake us up and by George, he did it.

  15. Oh I am so slow in my blog reading – but I wanted to especially remember to say Thank you for marching for all of us – Thank you to everyone who marched everywhere. I was reading posts, Facebook, Instagram, sewing blogs, etc. on that weekend and I could not believe how misinformed people are about what is being said and done in the world today and what the whole purpose of the march was – I would say freedom and equality for all! How could you possibility be anti-THAT????

  16. You’re so welcome Linda. I too was surprised at the reaction of some misinformed (or maybe intentionally dense) people. One guy said “if they’re so concerned about women why aren’t they marching for the women of Syria?” The answer is, they are marching for the women of Syria, but today they’re focusing on Trump and the people he emboldened. Then along comes Trump’s #MuslimBan and these men who were so concerned with the women of Syria are just fine with Trump refusing to let the women of Syria enter the US (legally I might add). Another guy said “why aren’t they marching for jobs in Alberta?” Answer, because they’re marching for women and human rights, and you know what, there’s nothing stopping you from marching for Alberta jobs. Go for it.”

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