BFP - Women's March demonstrators discuss movement's future

Screenshot_2017-01-24_23.40.22.png Police estimated that 15,000 to 20,000 people came to Montpelier to participate in a nation-wide women's march on Saturday, Jan. 21, 2017, closing two exits on Interstate 89 after traffic backed up for miles as people poured into Vermont's capital. GLENN RUSSELL/FREE PRESS

Katie McCarty, one of the organizers of the Women's March on Montpelier, watched in amazement in the week leading up to the Saturday rally as Facebook responses skyrocketed.

Now the movement's leaders are discussing how to harness that energy going forward.

"The RSVPs flooded in that final week after all the press came out," McCarty said Monday. "It was going up a thousand people a day: four thousand, five thousand, six thousand. On the morning of the march it was seven thousand RSVPs."

McCarty's volunteer web designer sent heran email Friday night saying the site had received 15,000 hits, crashing the website.

"That's when we realized it was going to be huge," said McCarty, development director for the group Rights and Democracy. "There was nothing we could do at that point."

The Vermont Women's March Unity Rally, as the event also was known, drew 15,000 to 20,000 people Saturday, temporarily shutting down three exits on Interstate 89 and filling the lawn, street and steps in front of the Statehouse with a sea of people of all ages and backgrounds. The march was one of dozens nationwide that together attracted millions of people. More rallies took place around the world.

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(Photo: GLENN RUSSELL/FREE PRESS)

"It was significant on so many levels, particularly just the significance of marching for women's rights but also marching in unity with other communities under increased threat from the policies and rhetoric of the incoming (Trump) administration," McCarty said.

McCarty hopes to turn the response the rally generated into an ongoing movement. She said Rights and Democracy reached out to 180 other organizations across the state working for social and economic justice in the run-up to the march.

"Now we've built this coalition of organizations and individuals doing this work," McCarty said. "That's incredibly powerful, especially in Vermont. We've already talked about the next step, reunifying as a team and building our platform moving forward."

A crowd of several thousand listens to speeches during

A crowd of several thousand listens to speeches during Women's March on Montpelier and Unity Rally at the Statehouse on Saturday, January 21, 2017.  (Photo: GLENN RUSSELL/FREE PRESS)

Ebony Nyoni, co-founder and president of Black Lives Matter VT, was one of the speakers at Saturday's rally.

"It was certainly wonderful to see so many people come out towards a shared cause or causes," Nyoni said Monday. "It was just great energy."

Nyoni said she is trying to build a sustainable base for her organization, with a goal of eventually having 5,000 members across the state. Black Lives Matter VT currently has 400 members.

"Basically we're organized and mobilized to make the experiences of people of color in Vermont more tolerable by addressing issues of racism, whether it be systemic, environmental or on a community level," Nyoni said.

A crowd of several thousand listens to speeches duringA crowd of several thousand listens to speeches during Women's March on Montpelier and Unity Rally at the Statehouse on Saturday, January 21, 2017.  (Photo: GLENN RUSSELL/FREE PRESS)

The organization is opening a coffee shop in Winooski on Feb. 11, called Shop 4 Change, that will offer Equal Exchange Coffee and pastries from different cultures.

"It's going to be really cool," Nyoni said. "Everything is organic. Everything is Fair Trade."

Nyoni said 100 percent of the proceeds from the coffee shop will go toward sustaining Black Lives Matter VT.

Rebecca Eun Mi Haslam was another of the speakers at Saturday's event. Haslam is the Burlington School District's K-12 equity and inclusion instructional leader.

"That basically means I get to provide direct support to teachers with regard to equity and inclusion in their instruction," Haslam said.

A crowd of several thousand listens to speeches during

A crowd of several thousand listens to speeches during Women's March on Montpelier and Unity Rally at the Statehouse on Saturday, January 21, 2017.  (Photo: GLENN RUSSELL/FREE PRESS)

Haslam said Monday she was given about three minutes to address the enormous crowd in Montpelier. Toward the end of her speech, she addressed the impact of the presidential election on students and families.

"What I can tell you is every day teachers have to mitigate the results of the election," Haslam said. "Children are hearing hateful rhetoric ... and bring that experience into school conversations."

Haslam sees Saturday's march as a "call to action" to change in the current political and social atmosphere. Katie McCarty agrees.

"These are daunting times, but I've never felt more powerful than right now, living in this state," McCarty said. "As an organizer, we've seen people who have never engaged in activism coming out and saying, 'I have to do something.'" 

http://www.burlingtonfreepress.com/story/news/2017/01/23/womens-march-organizers-discuss-future-of-movement/96961714/

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