What began as a singular protest and coalesced into a massive movement nationally, internationally, and statewide, the Women's March on Washington will mark the first day of Donald Trump's presidency.
At 10 a.m. Saturday, January 21, ralliers will begin to collect in D.C., in solidarity with a national citizens' movement for human rights. And as of Tuesday afternoon, 616 sister marches have been registered worldwide, occurring in all 50 states and 61 countries (a spokesperson from Women's March Global told us there were 44 countries involved, though 61 are listed on the organization's website).
At least six of those occur in Maine — in Portland, Augusta, Brunswick, Sanford, Kennebunk, Surry, and Fort Kent (with rumors of other gatherings in Brunswick and Eastport). Organizers at the state level say that 50 women at the state level have been organizing, acting as bus captains, captaining, and stewards for getting folks down to the capitol, but those staying local have plenty ways to express their solidarity with the movement.
Earlier this week, the Women's March on Washington released a mission statement attesting to a worldwide vision of women's rights values. The core principles are reprinted here:
- Health — Health care is the foundation of women’s well-being and economic stability. Women’s March Global advocates for access to affordable and inclusive women’s health care regardless of nationality, age, race or ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation or disability.
- Economic Security — Women are powerful drivers of economic growth, and their economic empowerment benefits all nations. Women’s March Global supports the dismantling of economic barriers that obstruct women’s full and equal access to local, national, and global economic systems.
- Representation — Women are under-represented globally, adversely affecting our collective health, safety, and economic security. Women’s March Global seeks fair and just representation of women locally, nationally, and internationally.
- Safety — Every woman has the need and right to feel physically secure, and security for women should be assured through sound legal practices. Women’s March Global stands behind the principle that women are not to be held accountable for actions that are outside their control — particularly regarding all forms of assault — and that fair legal action must be applied to prevent these crimes.
Genevieve Morgan has been acting as the Maine state administrator of the national Women's March organization, and is serving as the official liaison between the national effort and its Maine arm.
"As a massive and diverse group," Morgan says, "The WMW statement is a beautiful document that encompasses the desire for a truly enlightened society for all people, regardless of race, religion, gender, sexual status or identity, immigrant status, or physical ability."
In Portland, a local effort begins with a 1.5-mile walk beginning on Congress Street and the Eastern Promenade on Munjoy Hill.
"We are in complete solidarity with marches in Washington and Augusta," says local organizer Kathryn Yates, who, like Morgan, counts her activist status as a direct product of the election.
"For me, there are three components. There's the organization of the physical event. The philosophical piece — showing up for what you believe. That's very personal. And the third piece is the most important," she says. "And that's: What are you gonna do on the 22nd?"
As Trump's administration has promised an "active" first few weeks, activists and supporters of the movement echo that energy from Saturday's rally will result in sustained efforts as well.
"On both a state and national level," says Morgan. "We hope to continue to encourage the outflow of positive and enthusiastic energy from the folks who are participating in the marches.
Managing 11 regional hubs in the state, Morgan says she has been working tirelessly to help get marchers down to D.C. An artist and writer, she says she has never organized on such a massive scale before the election — a status she recognizes in many of the movement's participants.
"Our grass-roots network will continue to serve as a database and hub for people who want to stay engaged (or get engaged) with local campaigns and politics," she says. "We hope to support our people who choose to run for office, and to back up those already in office who understand our message and work to represent us. Most of all, we will serve as a massive cohort that will be vigilant when rights are trampled and backdoor deals are made that undermine the health and safety and welfare of we, the people. We will lean on each other when we get tired, and we will lift each other up when we fall, but we will not be silent, and we will not go away. I am personally dedicated to changing things up on the state level in 2018."
"One of my favorite things about the Women's Walk [in Portland] is the positivity," says Lauren C. Anderson, a consultant and organizer with Empower the Immigrant Woman who has worked alongside Yates to assist the Portland. "A lot of components of the media talking about it as an anti-Trump event. It's not, really. It's a pro- event," she says, pointing to the movement's direct, positivist principles and demands.
"That's even true of the national march. We encourage people to be positive."
As the Women's March has grown in support, one of its chief concerns has been the attempts to define its inclusivity and intersectionality. (Organizers do, of course, welcome and encourage participation from men.) While the mission language speaks in broad strokes, its efforts have grown from advocating for health-care coverage and reproductive rights, and the continued funding of Planned Parenthood, to more expansive aims, like stricter gun laws.
On the other side, some have criticized it as a movement of privilege. "I didn’t want to be part of the march if it was going to be a white-woman kumbaya march,” said Jo Ann Hardesty, president of the NAACP chapter of Portland, Oregon, which pulled out of its support of the city's march earlier this month.
Activists for the Portland group say they have addressed this concern. "We've done a lot of intentional outreach. People have said back to me that there's a perception in the new Mainer community that it's a white woman's thing," Anderson says, something organizers have attempted to address at the city level.
"We are talking about things that impact all of us," says Anderson, adding that Saturday's walk in Portland will include an address by Ridelphine Katabesha, a human rights lawyer from DR Congo.
MAINE SISTER MARCHES:
Portland | 10:30 a.m. | Eastern Promenade
Augusta | 10 a.m. | 111 Sewell St., Augusta
Fort Kent | 9 a.m. | Century Theater, 13 Hall St., Fort Kent
Surry | 10:30 a.m. | 1208 Surry Rd, Surry
Kennebunk | 10:30 a.m. | Main St. (near Town Hall), Kennebunk
Sanford | 10 a.m. | Main St., Sanford