[image-3]The follow-up to last year’s 2,000-strong Charleston Women’s March was met with sunny skies and crisp temperatures Saturday afternoon at Brittlebank Park.
An enthusiastic crowd held “We the People” signs, designed by Charleston native Shepard Fairey, and donned “pussy hats” as they raised their fists and applauded the same messages of feminism, inclusion, and unity that reverberated through hundreds of women’s marches around the world on Jan. 21, 2017, the day after President Donald Trump’s inauguration.
But this year’s gathering had a more targeted message — at least in Charleston. While last year’s marches were largely seen as a general rejection of Trump’s sexist rhetoric, this year’s organizers put together a list of speakers meant to celebrate diversity, inspire women to run for local office, and most importantly, remind them to vote in November.
A description on the event’s Facebook page says, “As 2018 approaches, let’s send a message to our elected leaders that we’re headed to the polls and we have something to say.”
Over 120,000 people took to the streets nationwide in similar marches and events, according to The Guardian. [slideshow-1]Among the speakers were SC. Rep. Wendy Brawley (D-Richland), S.C. Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter (D-Orangeburg), Rabbi Greg Kanter of Kadal Kadosh Beth Elohim, local yoga teacher and activist Kate Counts, trans rights activist and CP cover girl Vanity Deterville, and Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg and his wife, Sandy.
The four-hour rally was punctuated by issues that have picked up steam as progressive causes throughout the first year of Trump’s administration, including voting rights, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), Muslim-American and Native American safety, federal court appointments, and the record number of women running for local office, which was highlighted in a recent Time magazine cover titled “The Avengers.”
“South Carolina is one of the lowest voter participation places in the free democratic world, and that’s a sad thought,” Tecklenburg told the audience. “You know where we have to make the change? At the ballot box.”
[image-2]Summerville resident Christine Pinckney sat with her sister, Beechie Freeman, and her grandaughter, Ella, under a tree to the left of the stage. She was sick during last year’s Women’s March, so she was encouraged when she found the same camaraderie and excitement at this year’s rally.
“I think it’s important that we have equal rights, and that means that everyone needs to vote, everyone should have an option to vote,” Pinckney said. “It should be made easier, not more difficult.”
In 2011, then-Governor Nikki Haley signed a law requiring South Carolina voters to present a photo ID at the polls, a move that some say disproportionately prevents low-income and minority voters from making their voices heard. Later, a three-judge federal panel clarified that the state had to accept almost any “reasonable impediment” as to why a person could not present an ID, according to MSNBC.
S.C. Rep. Cobb-Hunter urged people to think about how the current administration is “packing” federal courts with Trump loyalists for lifetime appointments.
“You tell me if it makes sense to nominate someone for the federal bench who has never tried a case,” she said.
Diana Salazar-Guzman, president of the Latino Association of Charleston, stood onstage next to a DACA student from the College of Charleston.
“This is my example,” Salazar-Guzman said as she gestured toward the student. “We’re proud of where we come from, but there’s nothing better than staying where you’re living, and that’s in America.”
Across the street from the park, seven people stood in opposition to the rally. Charleston resident Nicole Claibourn held a sign reading, “I support my police officers.”
“My understanding is that this rally wasn’t supposed to be about Trump, but apparently it is,” Claibourn said. “To me, they sent out a false message.”[image-5]
Charleston native and civil and voting rights advocate Septima Clark was referenced throughout the afternoon. Called “The Mother of the Movement” by Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., Clark died on John’s Island in 1987 after years of advocating for literacy and education for African-Americans.
“The time is up for raising the John C. Calhouns and forgetting the Clarks,” said College of Charleston student Alexis Lain, who helped erect a marker of the civil rights leader set to go up on May 3 in Clark’s birthplace, 105 Wentworth St. “The time is up for tolerating the same injustices Clark fought against decades ago.”
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