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Women of the World Unite!: Ottawa joins continental counter inauguration

by Rebecca Riley

Photo: Urooj Mian

Photo: Urooj Mian

Seven thousand protesters walked from the Human Rights Monument on Elgin Street to the Bronson Centre on Jan. 21 in solidarity with the Women’s March in Washington, D.C.

Locally organized by Catherine Butler, Amanda Carver and Yelu Mulop, the march aimed to challenge issues like sexism, racism and homophobia and to support people who are marginalized.

“This isn’t technically an anti-Trump march but I see a lot of pussy hats. Just saying,” Butler said to the crowd.  

“We are marching because in the last year, there has been an unprecedented attack on women, on racialized communities, on immigrants, on Muslims, on members of the LGBTQ community, on Indigenous people, on people living with disabilities,” said Niki Ashton, the New Democratic Member of Parliament for the district of Churchill—Keewatinook Aski in Manitoba. “And today we are marching to say ‘No!’ to a system that holds all of us back.”

Over 500,000 people attended the Women’s March in Washington. Other marches were held across the US and other countries, with 31 marches in Canada.

While marching, protesters chanted phrases like “Love trumps hate,” “This is what democracy looks like,” and “Women’s rights, equality!” while onlookers honked and waved in support.

Jason Jones, an American who moved to Canada seven years ago and currently holds dual citizenship, voted for Hillary Clinton and is now concerned about how a Trump administration will affect Americans’ lives.

“The fact is that those differences [between the US and Canada] have just gotten more extreme. Not just politically. Look at literacy, infant mortality and standard of living have continued to slide in the States,” Jones lamented.

“If you look at Canada, this country has steadily moved in the direction I call progress. In the most optimistic view, the decline of rights and values and the well-being of the middle class will continue to slide and the rich people will get richer.“

There are also many who believe that the US, following Trump’s xenophobic rhetoric, will become a more threatening and dangerous place for them.

“My identity as a Middle Eastern woman is under attack a lot of the time. I feel uncomfortable in a lot of situations,” said Nazanin Zaretour, who shared her experiences of racism.

“Yesterday, I spent the whole day crying because it finally became real, I will not go to the United States in the next four years,” she said. “I didn’t feel safe before, I don’t feel safe now.”

Susan Kirkpatrick, a grandmother who held a sign that stated “What Meryl Said,” voiced concerns for younger people and for people she works with.

“The reason I’m marching is because I work in community health and I work with a lot of women whose voices cannot be heard,” said Kirkpatrick.

“I will talk to all the women in my community who couldn’t be here. They’re women of colour, LGBT women who are frightened to come so I’m going to tell them what we did today.”

Tanya Ruiter, who held a sign of a “narcissist’s prayer” expressed a fear about her father being a Trump supporter.

“I don’t know how anyone with two daughters could look at him and think that’s a good guy.”

Ruiter’s friend, Crystal Patterson, added that all people deserve respect.

“We want to support feminism and equal rights. Everybody deserves a say and it shouldn’t just be old, white, rich men.”

The current media trend has been to put a focus on the fact that more people attended the Women’s March in Washington than President Donald Trump’s inauguration — which also had fewer people than former President Barack Obama’s inaugurations in 2012 and 2008. However, that should never overshadow the personal and political reasons, such as those above, that brought these people out in force.

This article first appeared in the Leveller Vol. 9, No. 4 (January/February 2017).

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