AP NEWS

Women’s March: ‘Frustration has not faded’

January 19, 2019

NEW YORK — An impending storm, a schism within the movement and activism fatigue didn’t deter handsful of Connecticut women from traveling to Manhattan for the third annual Women’s March on Saturday.

Even so, the march itself was drastically smaller than previous years — New York City Police estimated as many as 25,000 marchers, compared to more than 250,000 the previous two years.

“I don’t think dwindling numbers means anything,” said Laura Kostin, a member of the Greenwich Representative Town Meeting who ran for a seat in the state House of Representatives in 2018. “The frustration has not faded.”

Kostin traveled to New York with a group of Greenwich women to attend the march on the Upper West Side, which, despite dwindling attendance, was mostly a celebration of what the movement has achieved since the first Women’s March in 2017 a day after the inauguration of President Donald Trump. An unprecedented number of women ran for and were elected to office at every level in 2018 with the help of many women who became politically active for the first time after the 2016 election.

The Women’s March events, which took place around the country, were a sign of how the movement has persisted despite controversy among the New York-based leaders of the national Women’s March group that planned the original event. Allegations of anti-Semitism divided the leaders of the group last year, prompting apologies, and spawning rival marches in New York and other cities that focused on intersectionality and diversity within the movement itself.

The group of Connecticut women said they attended the march on the Upper West Side rather than the second rally in New York, which took place in lower Manhattan, because the location was more convenient. The second rally, which featured speakers like U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, drew a few thousand people and highlighted the progressive agenda of the group, rather than focusing on the controversy that led to the rival rally.

Donna Mcdonough, who lives in Hamden, attended the rally in lower Manhattan, and said she was disappointed by the divide within the movement as well as the low attendance.

“I think that we should have learned something from 2016,” she said. “Also, I support the rights of women everywhere, including in Palestine ... I suspect that the turnout was a lot smaller than it should have been because I think that people were disillusioned with the splintering.”

Others attended a march in Hartford on Saturday, including Gov. Ned Lamont, first lady Annie Lamont and Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz.

In Hartford, about 2,000 people gathered in Bushnell Park and marched a few hundred yards to the north side of the state Capitol for the day’s rally.

Several Fairfield County groups participated, including a busload from Westport-based DefenDemocracy and Sister District of Fairfield County, and a group from Fairfield Standing United, with Rep. Cristin McCarthy Vahey, D-Fairfield.

Lamont, Sen. Richard Blumenthal, Bysiewicz and U.S. Rep Jahana Hayes were all at the Hartford march. Bysiewicz said her appointment as chair of the Governor’s council on Women and Girls on Friday was timed in part to coincide with Saturday’s march.

Blumenthal said the marches make a difference in Washington, D.C.

“The nation is watching, Trump is watching and my colleagues in the Senate are watching,” he said. “The old saying that a picture is worth 1,000 words, well, Donald Trump doesn’t read too much, but he looks at pictures.”

In New York, Jennie Baird, who attended the Upper West Side march, was raised in an activist family — she remembers her parents taking her to protests during the Vietnam War era. She has attended the Women’s March every year, and said even though activism has always been a part of her life, she didn’t consider herself “active” until after the 2016 election.

“That was really a wakeup call,” Baird said. “The first Women’s March changed everything.”

Baird said she was not concerned about the divisions within the movement, and argued the emphasis on the controversy is a way to distract from the original intent of the march.

“It’s easy to use that as a division tool,” she said. “But the march I’m seeing is very inclusive.”

Baird attended the March on Saturday with her mother, Linda Levy, and her daughter, Izzy Baird, who is a student at Mount Holyoke College. It was the first time the three generations of women attended a march together.

Levy was a freedom rider — a group of civil rights activists who rode interstate buses into the segregated southern United States in the 1960s to challenge the non-enforcement of the the Supreme Court decision that ruled segregated public buses were unconstitutional — and said she’s hopeful the momentum of the Women’s March will continue.

“I believe in this country, I believe in democracy and I believe in this movement,” Levy said. “The civil rights movement had plenty of schisms, but when I think back to the 1960s and to now, this country isn’t perfect and there’s still a lot to do, but we’ve come a long way. What’s going on now is unbelievable.”

Levy said the march has evolved from its first iteration in 2017. She said the protests that year were largely anti-Trump and focused on Women’s reproductive health. This year, she observed, there was a greater diversity of issues and groups represented on the signage of the protesters, and among the protesters themselves.

“I can’t remember a time when so many people have been following politics and all of the issues this closely,” she said. “This is good for progress and good for the country.”

kkrasselt@hearstmediact.com; 203-842-2563; @kaitlynkrasselt. Staff writer Dan Haar contributed to this report.

AP RADIO
Update hourly