2017-01-23 / Front Page

'We're all one'

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Crowd turns out for Sanford women’s march
By ALAN BENNETT
Staff Writer

SANFORD — Scores turned out to show their support for human rights at the Women’s March Maine: Sanford on Saturday.

About 100 women, men and children of all ages gathered in Central Park on Saturday morning, donning shades of pink and matching hats, to stand up for women’s rights and the rights of other people who face adversity.

The event coincided with the national Women’s March on Washington in Washington, D.C., also held on Saturday, which drew hundreds of thousands of women and men to the nation’s capital and cities across the country.

Marches were also held in Portland and Augusta, in addition to several other Maine communities.

Held the day following the inauguration of President Donald Trump, marchers set the goal of sending a message to all levels of government, including the incoming presidential administration, that women’s rights and civil rights need to be protected by elected officials.

“I think the goal of the march is to stay in solidarity not only with women, but as allies with all marginalized communities,” said Kael Parker, a member of Sanford-based Project CommUnity, which organized the Sanford event. “It’s a show of community and solidarity with all people.”

Organizers say the event was not a protest of Trump’s election, but rather a “pro-rally,” to demonstrate the shared beliefs of protecting those who have been marginalized in some way — whether they be women, minorities or members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender community.

Critics of the marches have said there is no point in protesting Trump now that he has been sworn into office, but those who marched on Saturday said they were in attendance to show that they wouldn’t back down from standing up for their rights.

“I want to keep things moving forward, not backward. I feel we’re moving backward,” said Peg Warner, who lives in Gonic, New Hampshire, but attended the Sanford rally. “For me, it’s saying I’m not going to sit down and shut up.”

Warner, 58, said this was her first-ever march and felt the cause was strong enough to motivate her to hit the streets.

“I’m kind of an ‘armchair activist’ on Facebook,” she said. “I think it’s about time I used my feet.”

While dubbed the Women’s March, the event was open to any and all who wanted their voices to be heard. Several dozen men attended, saying they believed in the cause.

“Obviously, women are truly marginalized, but there’s a lot of people marginalized, and if me coming out can help anybody I would like to do that,” said Ben Friedman, who had family marching in other cities across the country. “I look forward to helping as many people as I can.”

Friedman said in light of violent protests that broke out during and after the inauguration, including looting and the destruction of property, he’s hopeful that peaceful demonstrations like the march will signal to lawmakers that the American people really just want to be treated equally.
 
“Unfortunately, hate’s on both sides. I think we saw (Friday) that there’s hate on both sides, and I can only hope us coming out might be able to start painting the swath of acceptance for all. That’s what we’re after,” he said.

Above all, community was at the forefront.

“I think a lot of people are feeling uneasy: a lot of Americans in general and certainly a lot of marginalized communities, people of color, immigrants, religious minorities, (LGBT) folks, trans folks,” Parker said. “A united community is a strong community. We all rise together and that’s what we’re trying to show here today.”

Rising together was a theme running rampant among participants. Many in attendance, although they did criticize Trump, said the best way to fight for their rights is through love and acceptance.

“I’m 65 years old and this is the first time I’ve been afraid of my country, my government. The only way we’re going to get it back is by love and understanding, coming together,” said resident Linda Lew. “We’re all one.”

This was also Lew’s first march, and she came out because she wanted to be part of a movement working toward equality and peace.

“I think the more (people) we get and if we say the right thing — if we don’t spew hate, but we spew love — working together toward the common goal of saving things that are important to us,” she said.

“We just want what’s ours. We want our country back. The America that I know, we’re all there for each other. And this is not just for women,” she said. “It’s for America.”

— Staff Writer Alan Bennett can be contacted at 282-1535, ext. 329 or abennett@journaltribune.com.

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