Today, Donald Trump will be sworn in as the 45th President of the United States. But it’s the day after that looms large for many of those who oppose his presidency.
Saturday’s national Women’s March on Washington is expected to draw approximately 200,000 protesters, with law enforcement prepared to deal with a crowd possibly double that. More than 600 “sister” marches are planned across the nation with an estimated 1.3 million protesters registered.
Juneau will represent, both locally and in D.C., with at least 20 women taking the 3,000-mile trip to attend the national march, and with about 500 expected to show up at the Women’s March on Juneau at the Alaska State Capitol. Seventeen sister marches have been organized in Alaska, including larger cities such as Anchorage, and small Southeast communities like Haines, Sitka and Ketchikan.
AWARE, which provides shelter and support services to domestic violence victims, is hosting the Juneau event, which will include a short rally and march, as well as a networking event.
Staff member Becca Gaguine was already working on creating a local march when AWARE asked her to continue the campaign with its organizational support.
Gaguine created a Facebook page for the march with more than 600 people confirming attendance and another 500 indicating interest.
“I’ve been estimating 500 people, but who really knows?” she said.
“A lot of people are fired up and pissed off, and we want to find a way to channel that energy toward something positive,” Gaguine explained. “We want to get people (to the march) and find a way to mobilize them — not telling them what to do, but offering them options.”
As a nonprofit, AWARE can’t be partisan, which Gaguine says aligns very well with the national group’s platform.
“Women’s rights should never be partisan,” she said. “It should be across-the-board support.”
While Gaguine acknowledges that not everyone who attends the rally will feel that way, AWARE will stress its nonpartisanship at the start of the march.
“We are trying to be as inclusive as possible, as intersectional as possible, championing all women’s issues,” she said. “There are going to be a lot of hard conversations that come up. We need ways to (bridge) the differences between the different groups of people who feel marginalized. … We need to make this a unifying force and not a separating force.”
Gaguine has worked to “make sure that everyone is invited,” reaching out to interfaith groups and Republican political groups, for example. She wanted to stress, too, that “male allies are always welcome and appreciated.”
That message of inclusivity is what drew Melissa Garcia Johnson, who said that as a woman of color, she was a little wary when she first heard about the march.
“When they came out with their policy platform and I saw the diversity of the women who were involved, that solidified my interest,” she said. “The platform of unity, I am on board with that, but also with being aware of differences and working together in solidarity.”
Marching in Juneau felt like the right thing to do, Garcia Johnson said, since she sees it as a way for the community to show that it cares deeply about the same values, of ending violence and supporting rights movements.
“It’s a way for us to reclaim power and space in Juneau and at the national and even international levels,” she said.
“Personally, for me, protesting and marching is part of a long legacy for people of color to resist and speak truth to power and demand space,” Garcia Johnson added, explaining that her family fought alongside civil rights leader Cesar Chavez. “Being part of that, honoring that legacy of resistance and resilience … while fighting for future generations, that’s my personal motivation.”
Garcia Johnson urged those who plan to attend the march to make this a place to start their activism.
“Don’t let it stop here,” she said, pointing to the groups that will staff resource tables at the end of the march at the JACC. “Get connected.”
Sarah Sjostedt, a local ER nurse, plans on marching with a group of neighbors despite working the night shift, pointing to her vested interest in women’s health issues as one big reason.
“I was amazed at how much the election affected me,” she said. “It felt like a violation and a threat to the things I hold dear” — including, she said, the environment, women’s rights, health care access and LBGTQ issues.
Sjostedt said she felt compelled to stand up with other women, to fully communicate the things she finds unacceptable.
But rather than speak in anger, Sjostedt said, she chooses to “talk about what is kind and what is right and what is important.”
“Many people have felt powerless,” she added. “This is a chance to find solidarity, and I want to participate in that. I hope this a wake-up call.”
Making the trek to the nation’s capital
At least 20 Juneau residents are making their way to Washington, D.C., for the national march, although they are not traveling together. KRNN DJ Katie Bausler interviewed some of those woman for the “Women’s Prerogative” show, and left to attend the national march on Thursday.
“It’s beyond politics,” Bausler said. “It’s a sense of absolute disregard and disrespect for women and immigrants and minorities on the part of our leadership. I need to go and join this group of people so we can stand up together and say, this is not right.”
When Bausler went to Obama’s inauguration eight years ago with her daughter, she said there was a “palpable” feeling of “lightness in the air, that a weight of oppression had been lifted.”
The ensuing eight years of political gridlock and acrimony saddened her. And for Bausler, the march is a sign of hope.
“I think it’s the beginning of something,” she said. “Maybe we became complacent. Now that a worst-case scenario is unfolding, it’s time to stand up.”
“It’s important to bring that sense of positivity back to D.C., on the day after the inauguration,” Bausler continued. “When you get that many women together, it’s going to be good. That’s the way I’m looking at it. It’s not doom and gloom and hate. We’re getting together to show there’s another way of dealing with women’s issues and environmental issues and education issues, all the things that sustain life. That’s what women are about, giving and sustaining life.”
Libby Bakalar, the blogger behind One Hot Mess, said her children are a big reason she is attending.
“I have a 9-year-old daughter and I’m pretty afraid for her future — and the future for minorities, for immigrants, for LBGT folks, for all historically marginalized populations,” she said. “I feel like it’s very much worth the expense and effort to be there in person and be counted among those who said, ‘This is not OK. … I want my children to know their mom stood up … in a public way when it counted.”
Bakalar said she doesn’t mind being considered a feminist, but is not a big fan of labels in general.
“I view myself as a human being and a citizen of the planet, first and foremost,” she said. “This is a human rights movement, it’s not just about women. It’s for anybody who is against what the Trump administration stands for. … The fabric of our democracy is threatened. It’s a critical moment in history.”
Like other women planning to attend the march, Bakalar plans to continue her activism beyond the Saturday event, “paying attention to what’s happening and not getting complacent, doing things on a local level for the community, making that part of my daily civic responsibility to contribute to causes and organizations that I believe in, that create a more inclusive community.”
Pat Watt re-routed a planned trip at the last minute to march with the League of Women Voters in Washington, D.C., saying that at 77, she felt that “there comes a time to say these things really matter.”
Watt is an immigrant — from Scotland in 1962 — and the adoptive mother of a little girl of color.
“I learned how important democracy was,” she said, adding that she has stayed involved in public service ever since. From her perspective, it’s all to the good that younger generations are stepping up and becoming activists.
“We are facing who knows what change,” she said. “All we can do is try to figure out how to do the least harm and the most good, and get on with it. … Humanity is in a tough place. We’re all in this leaky boat together and we’ve all got to pull (together) or we’re all going to sink.”
The Women’s March on Juneau starts at 9 a.m. Saturday at the Alaska State Capitol and will end at the JACC; for more information, go to the Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/events/559379830926337/.