Women’s March heralded new era of activism

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More than a dozen Easton men and women jammed the streets of Washington, D.C., New York City, Los Angeles, and Boston with fellow protesters at rallies held in 50 countries and every state of the United States.

Millions of people across the globe marched in sister rallies to make their voices heard on Jan. 21, the first day in office for President Donald J. Trump, a man who does not share their values.

United by shared convictions and concerns as America enters the Trump presidency, women, men and children participated in the inauguration protest. The mission of the Women’s March was to send a bold message to the new government and to the world that women’s rights are human rights, and that defending the most marginalized is akin to defending all.

Eastonites departed on buses from Westport or Fairfield in the early morning dark — at around 1 a.m. — to add their boots and voices to the Women’s March on Washington. Others boarded trains and buses to get to rallies in New York and other cities.

Packed like sardines, with sparse cell phone service and comfort stations, they were unanimous in saying that the peaceful protests inspired them to keep the momentum going.

Leaders said the marches were just the beginning. They laid out a plan at womensmarch.com for 10 actions in 100 days, beginning with a letter-writing campaign to Congress.

‘What democracy looks like’

“This is what democracy looks like,” Heidi Armster of Easton said. “Saturday’s protest march in D.C. was a model of civility: It was peaceful, thoughtful and full of creatively made signs about numerous issues. The marchers were energized to use their right to speak out in protest; they were not violent. Signs called for respect for rights and the laws of the land, and respect was on display all day long. Our founding fathers would be proud of their daughters and their sons who marched.”

Armster marched with Eastonites Regina McNamara, Kathi Cunningham, Michelle Scatamacchia, Dana Johnson, Kiko Teed, Cindy Shortt, and Debbi Barer, to name a few.

Easton Selectman Robert Lessler and his wife, Debbie Pearlman, took the train from the Fairfield Metro-North station to New York City to march in New York. Their daughter, Rebecca, a 2009 graduate of Joel Barlow High School, marched in Los Angeles.

“Throngs of people with pink hats and scarves were carrying all manner of signs,” Robert Lessler said. “The streets from Grand Central to the corner of 48th Street and 2nd Avenue where the rally was held were thick with women, men, young people, older people, children, white people, brown people, yellow people, and black people..

“It was a great event and it felt wonderful to stand in solidarity with so many thousands of others in New York City and across the country and the world to let the new president know that we will not stand idly by while he and his congressional allies try to break America. The question now is how can this movement continue to be a progressive force in meaningful opposition to the president and his destructive agenda.”

Signs: respectful to raw and hilarious

Barer carried a sign with a photo of her son Eli, who has Down syndrome. The sign said, “What about me?” She held it up as they passed iconic national landmarks, such as the Smithsonian Institution.

“It was an amazingly positive experience, and I am so happy that I went,” Shortt said. “The feeling of the entire day was one of unity and strength directed at supporting every American, regardless of gender, faith, race, identity, or sexual orientation.”

“What a day!” Alfandre said. “So inspirational. So many people of all ages, colors, abilities, causes. So many wonderful signs. Totally peaceful and determined protest.”

McNamara said she hadn’t attended a protest since college, “but the platform of the Women’s March was the intersection of so many of my concerns — traditional women’s issues like pro choice but also the environment, gun control, immigration, health care. Last year showed me that voting is not enough; not showing up is no longer an option.

“The marchers were so wonderfully diverse and yet despite the unprecedented turnout creating crowding and bathroom shortages, decency and mutual respect were the hallmarks of the entire day.”

Johnson said, “So many people here from all over. I don’t know why I was surprised, but there were buses from Canada unloading women carrying signs of support. Some of the signs are really clever. The vibe is of empowerment and friendship. It’s a very diverse group.”

Caroline Twersky, Barlow Class of 2014, who received the , attended the march in Washington and wrote about it for Seventeen.com. Twersky is a junior at Northwestern University.

There were many speakers, who spoke for more than four hours.

“We heard many activists and notables, Michael Moore, Ashley Judd, Scarlett Johansson, Alicia Keys, New Jersey Democratic Sen. Cory Booker, Tammy Duckworth, Cecile RIchards,” Tracey Iaizzi , HAN Network director, said. “The signs ran the gamut from really raw to hilarious.’”

She said people she spoke with were from all over — upstate New York, California, Miami, north, south, east, and west. One woman had just flown in from Chile after visiting her daughter.

“During the entire day, the mood was amazingly calm, respectful and very positive,” she said. “At no point did we feel the slightest bit concerned for our safety.”

She was in touch with her kids marching in Boston, her siblings in Denver and her friends in New York.

“All reported the same: peace, love and positive inspiration to effect change.”

At the Women's March on Washington from Easton, unless otherwise noted, were Heidi Armster, Regina McNamara, Kathi Cunningham, Sharon Brodeur Pistilli (Fairfield), and Cathy Alfandre.

At the Women’s March on Washington from Easton, unless otherwise noted, were Heidi Armster, Regina McNamara, Kathi Cunningham, Sharon Brodeur Pistilli (Fairfield), and Cathy Alfandre.

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