Long Island Women Represent At D.C. March

Fleet of buses organized from New York to the capital

Upwards of 500,000 peaceful protesters descended on Washington D.C. for the Women’s March On Washington on Saturday, Jan. 21. (Photos by Kimberly Dijkstra, except where otherwise noted)

The Jan. 21 Women’s March On Washington drew a crowd of more than 500,000 women, men and children at the nation’s capital. Buses departed from Manhasset, Garden City, Riverhead, Huntington and others carrying residents from all over Long Island who wanted their voices to be heard.

The march was entirely peaceful, boasting zero arrests. Organizers requested in advance that demonstrators convey positive messages and hired private security to ensure safety for all, including the many disabled individuals who attended. It was the largest gathering for people with disabilities in history, according to Vox.

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Marchers who also attended President Obama’s first inauguration report believing the Women’s March drew a much larger crowd than that event. Emerging estimates suggest the same—that the number may be closer to a million. The march drew an estimated three times as many people as the inauguration on the previous day.

#whyimarch, a social media campaign, swept the globe in recent weeks, highlighting each individual’s reason for marching.

Signs, from left: We Stand United Garden City New York, Critical Thinking Isn’t Dead, and With Liberty and Justice For All (Photos by Jaclyn Siegel)

Jaclyn Siegel of Hicksville arrived in D.C. via charter bus departing from Garden City. “I marched because I want my voice to be heard by Washington, our country and the world,” she said. “I want to protect my rights as a woman, and to help protect rights for the millions of Americans who feel threatened by the new administration.”

Nancy Ercolano has never participated in anything like the Women’s March before. “I walked now because of the imminent threat to women’s rights, specifically those who can’t afford or have healthcare and depend upon great organizations like Planned Parenthood,” she said. “I walked for our present and future daughters of America.”

Robin Weissbratten of Jericho marched for several reasons. “As the granddaughter of an illegal immigrant, I know that the United States has historically been welcoming to immigrants and refugees who need shelter from oppression and persecution of any kind,” she said. “As an almost 65-year-old woman who marched for women’s rights over 40 years ago, I marched for my daughter and future grandchildren. I simply cannot believe the need still exists to rally for equality.”

(Photo by Robin Weissbratten)

Weissbratten continued, “As the granddaughter of a union organizer and activist, I marched to make sure that tyranny and fascism do not become the norm. I marched because I am an American and I believe my country is great.”

Long Island woman Jennifer Saver said, “It was an exhilarating and energizing experience. I plan to continue to have my voice heard so we can effect change.”
Kerry Johnson of Nassau County said, “The march was a spectacular testament to the beautiful and incomparable strength of women, which should never be underestimated. It was also a powerful reminder of what can be accomplished when people of all ages and backgrounds stand together to support women’s rights.”
Johnson added, “This march is a significant beginning. We must continue to raise our voices and support one another.”

Dee Driscoll, a leader of the Garden City bus, could not be happier to have been a part of the historic day. “We were a small part of something enormous,” she said. “We need you [20- and 30-somethings] to move forward and get more involved with shaping the future of this country since you’ll be taking the reins one day soon.”

‘Team Garden City’ gathered to board the charter bus at 4:15 a.m. headed for Washington D.C.

Cheryl Weiss of Rockville Centre, another leader of ‘Team Garden City’ is proud of her group for their enthusiasm in showing the world they do not accept hate, bigotry and division. “As we walked, we were warmly greeted by D.C. residents, chanted in unison with strangers and admired thousands of creative signs,” she said.

She chatted with other protesters and felt a sense of unity and hope. “Instead of being told to ‘get over it,’ we were instant like-minded friends. Maybe for the first time since the election, we felt a glimmer of optimism.”

Weiss added how impressed she was with the friendliness of her fellow marchers. “We saw older people gingerly walking with canes, mothers and daughters, fathers and daughters, babies being carried in loving arms, people of all ethnicities, sexual orientations, and on and on,” she said. “Not one person seemed bothered by the diversity, but rather welcomed it. Hundreds of thousands of people and not one incident. Wonderful!”

Deborah Denson of Smithtown counts the Women’s March On Washington as one of the most important events in her life. “My faith in humanity was restored,” she said. “I marched for memories of my grandmother and my mother, for my students and the world my 18-year-old son will inherit. He plans to go to law school to study constitutional law. After the march, he texted he was proud of me.”

Speakers at the D.C. rally included Gloria Steinem, Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards, America Ferrara, Ashley Judd, Scarlett Johansson, Michael Moore, Malcolm X’s daughter Ilyasah Shabazz, Muhammad Ali’s daughter Maryum Ali and many more.

Among artists to perform were Alicia Keys, Janelle Monae and Madonna. Keys read a poem summing up the mission of the event: “No hate, no bigotry, no Muslim registry. We value education, health care and equality. We will continue to rise until our voices are heard, until our planet’s safety is not deferred, until our bombs stop dropping in other lands, until our dollar is the same dollar as a man’s.” The speech was met with cheers and applause by the hundreds of thousands present.

In addition to the D.C., more than 600 sister marches took place across the world. Every continent held marches, including Antarctica, whose protest took place on an expedition ship.

Long Island held it’s own sister march in Port Jefferson. Approximately 800 people attended, many with signs, pink hats and donations for a local domestic violence shelter.

An estimated 3 million participated in marches in cities across the U.S., including New York City, with at least 400,000 participants, Los Angeles, with as many as 750,000 according to some sources, and Chicago, with an estimated 250,000. Other notable turnouts include an estimated 100,000 in Boston, Seattle, Portland and Denver; 90,000 in St. Paul; 85,000 in the Bay Area, 60,000 in Atlanta; 50,000 in Philadelphia and Austin, TX; 20,000 in Houston and Phoenix; and more than 10,000 in Kansas City, Sacramento, New Orleans, Charlotte, Nashville and Tuscon.

Pink cat-ear hats, dubbed pussyhats, appeared in great numbers at every march. The Pussyhat Project began as a movement to provide marchers with a way to make a unique collective visual statement and provide those who could not attend a way to show solidarity and support women’s rights.

The organization, founded by Krista Suh and Jayna Zweiman relied on “the power of numbers, the power of pink, the power of individuality within large groups, the power of handmade and the power of pussy” to convey their message. The website www.pussyhatproject.com states, “We chose this loaded word for our project because we want to reclaim the term as a means of empowerment,” referring to when the new president used the term in a derogatory manner and bragged about sexual assault.

The project also highlights that knitting, crochet and sewing, traditionally known as women’s crafts, can be used to convey a powerful message. The makers of the hats spent their time and energy creating them to share with others. Several members of ‘Team Garden City’ handed out extra handmade pussyhats to their fellow passengers and were met with hugs of gratitude.

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What #Hope looks like #womensmarch #nyc

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Julianna Ryan of West Hempstead attended the NYC sister march and was encouraged seeing that women will not back down even in the face of continual discrimination and disrespect. “We congregated so peacefully and quietly that individual conversations could be heard in the crowd,” she remarked. “It wasn’t even about Trump and his blatant disregard for basic human decency…It was about underprivileged groups supporting each other and demanding our voices be heard.”

Ryan continued, “From feminists to freedom fighters, from environmentalists to refugees and all of our allies, Saturday was a moment to unify us as a family. …I will cling to my family, my sisters, in the midst of all that threatens us.”

Karen M. of Mastic attended the NYC march with members of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of the Great South Bay. “Not everyone there was marching for the same thing—the issues varied, but the bottom line is every person counts, regardless of background, income, religion, sexual identity,” she said. “The things that are being suggested by our commander-in-chief will result in people dying.”

Barbara B. of Mineola also traveled to Manhattan to march. “It brought me to tears a number of times just feeling the unity and love that spread throughout the city that day,” she said. “I even made a few new friends who live on Long Island.”

Organizers of the historic event urge participants to continue the movement. Details about the “10 Actions / 100 Days” can be found on www.womensmarch.com. Jaclyn Siegel has committed to write letters to her senators. “As a special education history teacher, I will continue to arm my students with strategies to think critically about the information that bombards them every day and to make informed decisions that affect both their present and future,” she said.

Much discussion took place on the Garden City bus to organize grassroots efforts to make a difference locally. Cheryl Weiss encourages everyone involved to keep the momentum going. “Join groups, volunteer, call email or write your members of Congress,” she said. “Keep the pressure up, especially on Republicans, and thank those whom you believe are working towards goals which align with yours.”

Daily Action, www.dailyaction.org, promotes civic engagement by sending a one text message every workday about an issue, with instructions on how to contact an elected official. Opt in by texting the word DAILY to 228466.

Were you at a march? Share your thoughts and pictures with Long Island Weekly on Facebook at www.facebook.com/LongIslandWeekly.

Kimberly Dijkstra
Kimberly Dijkstra is the web editor for Anton Media Group, a writer for Long Island Weekly and recipient of several Press Club of Long Island (PCLI) and New York Press Association (NYPA) awards.

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