Juneau joined in on the nationwide rallies and protests Saturday with a women’s march from the Alaska State Capitol to Mayor Bill Overstreet Park.
What began as a late push to express solidarity with national events organized to encourage voting in the Nov. 3 election and show opposition to Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett wound up attracting about 50 participants, including a candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives.
“I was really surprised,” said Jeni Brown, who helped organize the event, and said she would have been pleased with any turnout.
Jenny Smith, who has organized past women’s marches in Juneau and was a co-organizer of Saturday’s events, said she and other protesters were marching for gender, racial and economic justice.
“Women vote, so count on us,” Smith said. “We’re offended by the administration trying to slam dunk a replacement for Ruth Bader Ginsburg.”
Ginsburg’s death in September led to debate over whether it is proper for the president to nominate someone to the nation’s highest court, or for the Senate to confirm a nominee, weeks before a presidential election. In 2016, the Senate did not hold a confirmation hearing for then-President Barack Obama’s nominee Merrick Garland.
However, this past week, hearings were held for Barrett, and a committee vote and vote by the full Senate are expected in the coming weeks.
Based on the signs people carried, there did not appear to be much, if any, division, on the matter in the ranks of the marchers.
“They can wait,” Smith said of confirming a Supreme Court nominee. “They waited before.”
During the march itself, marchers did not appear to maintain social distancing, but it appeared all attendees over the age of 2 wore masks and other precautions were taken in light of climbing COVID-19 case counts in the city and state.
Gloves, sanitizing wipes and more were available to marchers who stopped near the Capitol to make signs before the march and rally. Plus, Smith said voicing dissent was a matter worth gathering for.
“It’s so important,” she said. “We have to stand up for our rights.”
The rally, held near the whale statue in Overstreet Park, featured remarks from state Rep. Sara Hannan; a statement from the Alaska Chapter of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls and Two Spirit read with passion by Yolanda Fulmer.
“Iñuuruŋa savaktuŋalu Dena’ina-t nunaŋanni Kisaġvigmun. ‘I live and work on the land of the Dena’ina in Anchorage,’” the statement began. “I was asked to take a minute to share on this topic. In many ways this is an incredibly complex issue of tangled systems..but the root of MMIWG2S is one — and that is colonization. The same values that steal, extract, and perpetuate violence and toxins against our lands and waters are the same ones used against our bodies.
“These are the same value systems and beliefs that we go up against in seeking justice for our loved onesm,” the statement continued. “So each and everyday we fight for decolonization and the break down of oppressive systems. We grow our movement stronger through people power and solidarity. Collectively, we create healing spaces for our families. Collectively, we demand elected officials to answer to the people. We reclaim data. And we demand police accountability. Today, and every day is a good day to be Indigenous. Because my vision of justice is clear. Justice is Indigenous. Justice is the sacred feminine. Justice is land back. Justice is solidarity.”
The march and rally also attracted U.S. House of Representatives candidate Alyse Galvin, who was in town for a campaign event. Her presence was announced when Galvin spoke up to provide the correct time of a drive-in campaign event held later on Saturday.
“I wouldn’t miss a moment of sisterhood for anything,” Galvin said.
Shared experiences and the ability to affect change were sentiments many of the speakers mentioned.
“We can change things,” Hannan said.
And Brown said she hoped people in attendance noted how many people attended the event.
“We’re not alone,” Brown said. “We can all support each other in this community.”
• Contact Ben Hohenstatt at (907)308-4895 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @BenHohenstatt.