Local organizers fill up four buses for Women’s March on Washington
United by shared convictions and concerns as America enters the Trump presidency, more than 200 people will depart from Ridgefield High School’s parking lot on four buses in the early morning dark — shortly before 3 a.m. — Saturday, Jan. 21, to add their boots and voices to the Women’s March on Washington.
“The trailblazing women who came before us gave us a platform on which to stand, and now that we are here, it is our obligation to bring others up to where we are – even though we aren’t yet where we should be,” said Aimee Berger-Girvalo, who worked with her friend Jessica Mancini to organize the Ridgefield-based contingent to the nationwide march.
“We, and the many women and men, who we’ve gotten to know over the last two months of organizing and planning, recognize that it is long past time for all-inclusive equal rights, across all intersecting identities. Period. And that is really what this march is about,” Berger-Girvalo said.
And while they’re organizing here, Suzanne Benton — a Ridgefielder for more than 50 years — has been active at her winter home in St. Petersburg, Fla., organizing a local march there in support of the national rally in Washington.
“We are part of the upswell of concern now running runs throughout America and the world,” Benton said in an email to The Press. “We are the overwhelming popular vote that chose Hillary, and we won’t be silenced. No matter what.”
Predictions for the turnout at the march in Washington on Saturday range from 100,000 to 200,000, with national organizers hoping to overshadow Friday’s inauguration of Donald Trump as president.
The New York Daily News reported Jan. 12 that the parking lot beside Robert F. Kennedy Stadium in Washington D.C. had receive requests for 1,200 bus parking permits for the women’s march, compared to 200 bus permits sought for the inauguration.
The local group has a harsh schedule, leaving from Ridgefield High School at 2:50 a.m. on Saturday, Jan. 21, arriving in Washington D.C. about 9 a.m. for the march at 10. Buses home will leave Washington at 5 p.m., arriving back in Ridgefield about 11:10 Saturday night — “traffic permitting,” Berger-Girvalo said.
‘Long haul ahead of us’
The cost of the buses is shared, and works out to $58 each. Some seats are available from people whose plans are changing, Berger-Girvalo said, and people interested should contact the group through its Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/groups/548550428668192/
Berger-Girvalo and Mancini began talking about the march shortly after the November election, but see it in the context of the larger women’s movement and other human rights causes.
“Jessica and I have discussed at length that we have a long haul ahead of us to achieve absolute equality for women, and that certain rights we have taken for granted for most of our own lives are now actively being challenged, and in some places, revoked,” Berger-Girvalo said.
“But we also understand that we would be missing the big picture if we thought that as white women, living in an affluent town like ours, our fight was anything like the battles fought by black, Muslim and Latina women, or gay, bisexual and transgendered women,” she said. “And we can’t just stop at women’s rights.”
Mancini, a Democrat who serves on the Board of Finance, said she was motivated by concerns raised with the election of Donald Trump in November.
“Since the election results, I have felt an overwhelming sadness and a need to be a part of something, because I felt our country's freedoms and the values I believed, would soon be taken,” she said.
“As we started to gather together and find other like minded voices, I heard stories of women who have marched many times, young people who have never feared a loss of their beliefs now getting involved, men joining our sides and saying ‘we agree,’ the LGBT feeling passionate about holding firmly to the rights they have recently just gained, and so many more.
“For me the march is just the beginning of our group,” the finance board member said. “A national statement that will start grassroots powerhouses across our country, and an opportunity to keep passionate and concerned citizens engaged and aware. It is, in my opinion, our first of many statements that echo the sentiment that we are still here and they will hear our voice.”
The Ridgefielders’ sentiments echo the big-tent stance of the march’s national organizers.
In a declaration of principles on their website, march organizers say:
“The Women's March on Washington is a women-led movement bringing together people of all genders, ages, races, cultures, political affiliations and backgrounds in our nation’s capital on January 21, 2017, to affirm our shared humanity and pronounce our bold message of resistance and self-determination.
“Recognizing that women have intersecting identities and are therefore impacted by a multitude of social justice and human rights issues, we have outlined a representative vision for a government that is based on the principles of liberty and justice for all. As Dr. King said, ‘We cannot walk alone. And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead. We cannot turn back.’ Our liberation is bound in each other’s.
“The Women’s March on Washington includes leaders of organizations and communities that have been building the foundation for social progress for generations. We welcome vibrant collaboration and honor the legacy of the movements before us — the suffragists and abolitionists, the Civil Rights Movement, the feminist movement, the American Indian Movement, Occupy Wall Street, Marriage Equality, Black Lives Matter, and more…”
A “We believe” litany of the march’s principles, in shortened form, includes:
“We believe in Gender Justice. We must have the power to control our bodies and be free from gender norms, expectations and stereotypes….
“We firmly declare ... our obligation to uplift, expand and protect the rights of our gay, lesbian, bi, queer, trans or gender non-conforming brothers, sisters and siblings…
“We believe in an economy powered by transparency, accountability, security and equity. We believe that creating workforce opportunities that reduce discrimination against women and mothers allow economies to thrive...
“We believe in equal pay for equal work and the right of all women to be paid equitably. We must end the pay and hiring discrimination that women, particularly mothers, women of color, lesbian, queer and trans women still face each day in our nation...
“We recognize that women of color carry the heaviest burden in the global and domestic economic landscape, particularly in the care economy. We further affirm that all care work—caring for the elderly, caring for the chronically ill, caring for children and supporting independence for people with disabilities — is work, and that the burden of care falls disproportionately on the shoulders of women, particularly women of color...
“We believe that all workers — including domestic and farm workers — must have the right to organize and fight for a living minimum wage, and that unions and other labor associations are critical to a healthy and thriving economy for all. Undocumented and migrant workers must be included in our labor protections, and we stand in solidarity with sex workers’ rights movements...
“We believe Civil Rights are our birthright. Our Constitutional government establishes a framework to provide and expand rights and freedoms — not restrict them. To this end, we must protect and restore all the Constitutionally-mandated rights to all our citizens...
“We believe it is time for an all-inclusive Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution...
“Rooted in the promise of America’s call for huddled masses yearning to breathe free, we believe in immigrant and refugee rights regardless of status or country of origin. It is our moral duty to keep families together and empower all aspiring Americans to fully participate in, and contribute to, our economy and society…
“We believe that every person and every community in our nation has the right to clean water, clean air, and access to and enjoyment of public lands. We believe that our environment and our climate must be protected, and that our land and natural resources cannot be exploited for corporate gain or greed—especially at the risk of public safety and health…”
Once Berger-Girvalo and Mancini started organizing a group to go down to the march, interest blossomed from a Facebook page they set up.
“So many amazing people started talking about this group, and sharing their concerns. Within one week of the announcement of the march we held our first meeting and scheduled another,” Berger-Girvalo said.
“In about a month we had four full buses with a total of 220 people – adults, teens and even some young kids. The truth is, any among us could've pulled this together with the aid of the incredible enthusiasm and focus of the members of our group.”
It’s a local response.
“Not everyone in the group is from Ridgefield, but nearly every passenger is connected to the town, or someone who lives in it, in some way,” she said.
“Our facebook group is currently at 365 members, and growing every day. Some are taking cars and trains to DC and staying for a few days or more. Others are not actually attending the march in DC but still planning to march locally in either, Hartford, NYC or Boston.”
Others “have decided traveling to the march is not feasible but are staying connected” through the Facebook group.
In mid-December, Benton stood up at a Quaker Meeting she attends when at her winter home in St. Petersburg, Fla., and spoke about organizing a march there. Soon she was in touch with other Florida organizers, had a FACebook page set up, and was hearing for people who wanted to take part.
“The simple gesture of standing up caused a momentum that now has over 5,000 people have signed on to March in this city on Jan. 21 in solidarity with the Women’s March in DC,” Benton said.
“We, are the deeply concerned being called to march as the first step to what will follow: organizing ourselves to bravely speak out to friends and neighbors; to lobby our local, state and federal government officials again and again,” she said.
“They'll have to understand our demand for an inclusive nation regardless of gender, nationality, faith or sexual orientation, for a common vision of freedom, equality, social justice and sustainability that they must honor and meet.”