“Women belong in the House [and Senate]!”
by Diara J. Townes
Chants of “My body, my choice! My country, my voice!” and “This is what democracy looks like!” were heard as a wave of pink pussyhats and protest signs marched down Central Park West just before noon on a chilly Saturday morning in January.Women’s March has now become an annual worldwide event, sparked after the election of President Donald J. Trump in 2016.
“We need more women at the table,” said Dr. Lori Gersham, 48, of Fairfield Connecticut. Holding a sign with her friend Huge Gervais, 45, beside her, Gersham shared why she was marching for a third year. “We need to make sure that there are women in the room where [the decisions] happen.”
Despite setbacks in policy and equal rights under the Trump Administration, women gathered in the thousands to rally in support of reform. Several groups lined the route, asking people if they were registered to vote in next month’s special election for New York City Public Advocate where nearly two dozen candidates are in the race. The Refuse Fascism protest group passed out newspapers, pushing for revolution.
“I stand for everyone’s rights,” said Samantha Maurice of Bayville, Long Island. The 25 year-old marched in Washington in 2017, the day after the president’s inauguration. “The country felt so divided. But seeing everyone out there really made me feel like we were actually united in this. It was the most incredible experience.”
Francesca D’agostino, a student at Fordham University, was marching for the first time this year. “It’s emotional, but also empowering,” said the 19 year-old Ohio native. “It’s empowering to see so many kids here with signs.”
Her friend, Isabela Apodaca, shared similar sentiments, who added that she marched in Los Angeles last year. “It’s really important for us to support women and women’s rights.”
In the midst of the government shutdown, immigrant rights’ violations, loss of protections for the LGBTQ community and the environment, protestors had a lot to rally for.
“Last year we took the power to the polls, and this year we’re taking power to the policy because we’ve taken back the House of Representatives. And that’s just step one! ”
Ocasio-Cortez and two dozen other new faces won elections across the nation this past November, bringing optimism, transparency and diversity to Washington. Her constituents live in the Bronx and Queens, two of the most diverse boroughs in New York City.
“It is so incredibly important to uplift all of our voices,” she said to the crowds gathered along Central Park West. “Justice is not a concept we read about in a book. Justice is about the water we drink, justice is about the air we breathe, justice about how easy it is to vote, justice is about how much ladies get paid!”
“I’m out here because of, well, everything,” said Kristen Buckley, 28, of Long Island. Buckley decided to dress as one of the principal characters from The Handmaid’s Tale, a story about a dystopian future where women are treated as second-class citizens (and worse), to emphasize her protest. “It’s about everyone’s rights.”
While controversy nipped at the heels of the founders of the Women’s March, the enthusiasm and dedication in support of equal rights were still prominent.
“It’s really important for us to keep going,” shared Minerva Ranjeet, 28, of Brooklyn, who marched last year as well. “We can’t let our momentum slow down.”
More Photos from the Women’s March in NYC. Credit: Diara J. Townes (and her iPhone 7).