Beloiters head to marches in Madison and D.C.
Photo of a sign at the March on Washington provided by Reese Iafano’18
“I’m a baby activist,” says Rachel Bergstrom, assistant professor of biology.
For Rachel and many others, Jan. 21 was a moment of protest, symbolizing not just the disagreement with an new presidential administration, but the first step in moving outside their comfort zone.
The election of Donald J. Trump as the President of the United States, the day prior, brought a span of women’s marches across the globe and ignited a fire in many first-time protesters here at Beloit.
Rachel, a first time protester, said her inspiration for attending the Women’s March on Madison was her mother. A woman she described as someone who stood up for the things she believed in, in a kind way.
Outraged by the election, years of incidents of police brutality across the country, and recent hate and bias incidents on campus, she decided this was the time to stand up.
“It seemed like this was the first time that I could see a way in,” says Rachel.
Beloiters in Madison. Photo provided by Ellen Joyce.
Madison Police estimated between 75,000 and 100,000 people at the march, making it the largest city protest since the 2011 protests of Gov. Scott Walker’s Act 10. Marchers headed down State St. to the Capitol Building.
Ellen Joyce, associate professor of history, attended the 2011 protests, but this time took her activism a step further by organizing over 50 women and men from Beloit to attend the march in Madison.
The protest renewed her need to fight.
“I had been in such despair since the election and now I feel I can do this, I can resist this, and I can work on this” says Ellen on attending the march.
Britt Scharringhausen, associate professor and department chair of physics, who rode on the bus to Madison was also a first-timer.
New estimates show nearly half a million people attended the Women’s March on Washington.
Reese Iafano’18 was among the crowd, though she isn’t new to protesting. She's participated in several protests, most recently one in late November in Chicago.
“After the results for the election came in, I felt this is a game changer. As a white person, I should have been showing up and protesting things way before we got to this point. I wanted to advocate for different types of identities,” says Reese.
She added the drive to Washington D.C. was a roller coaster fueled with news updates about the transformation of the White House website after the inauguration was over.
“The whole mood in the car would change from fun, road-tripping vibe to remembering why we’re doing this,” she continued.
Many activists criticized the organizers of the Women’s March on Washington for its lack of intersectionality and inclusivity. Organizers responded by releasing a “Statement on Inclusivity” on the organization’s website.
“... The work of this march is not only to stand together in sisterhood and solidarity for the protection of our rights, our safety, our families and our environment -- but it is also to build relationships and mend the divides between our communities. It’s hard work, and it will be ongoing. It’s an ambitious goal – one that reaches far beyond January 21st – but we believe that there is no other way forward. Only together can we march towards freedom. The Women’s March on Washington is just the first step; what comes after is up to us all.”
According to Reese, the environment wasn’t very inclusive or intersectional. While her friends held signs advocating for the rights of sex workings and transwomen they received looks of disgust, she said.
“There were a bunch of white women wearing pink hats and drowning out what they didn’t want to hear,” Reese says.
While all four women were excited about the marches they attended, each said they are left reflecting on how to make these spaces more inclusive and diverse.
“I want to think about how does this become more inclusive. How do we as white women get involved in the amazing movements that are already underway by women of color? How do we move from lip service about that to actually doing that?” says Britt.
The answer to that difficult question, starts with education, recognizing privilege, and continuing the fight, concluded the women.
The early marches may be over, but the fight for justice continues.