On Saturday, January 21st, women, men, and children took to the streets in the Women’s March on Washington D.C., and in 673 “sister” marches held across the 50 states, Puerto Rico, and in 80 countries worldwide to proclaim that women’s rights are human rights, among other things.
New Jerseyans opting for a site closer than D.C. participated in marches held in Asbury Park, Pompton Plains, Sicklerville, Westfield, Wycoff, and Trenton. They were asked to come peacefully in purple, the color of unity, in order to show that “no matter what state we live in or which political party we belong to, we are all one America,” according to Women’s March on New Jersey organizers.
In Trenton, nearly 6,000 people descended on the Trenton War Memorial by bus, car, and on foot to hear speeches in Patriots Theater, and then to march to the State House. Many wore pink hats and purple jackets, most carried signs, and much of the mostly white, female crowd voiced concern of their rights being taken away. Event organizer Elizabeth Meyer estimated 7,500 in attendance.
As people took their seats amidst a steady thrum of music, Pennington resident Janet Gray said she was feeling “very positive about the potential of citizens to resist damaging policies and in their ability to create alternatives.” Carol Zanca of Mercerville, a lifelong activist of civil rights, said that she was feeling little hope after seeing the cabinet nominees and wanted to march on behalf of women’s rights.
Princeton resident, Pat Barnett said, “I’m here because there’s a basic lack of respect for women and minorities. This administration has pitted people against each other and that is done to keep people powerless. I don’t want to see us lose power.”
Lastly, Len Ershaw, a man from Princeton said, “I’m here to support everything the (march’s) mission statement says about women’s equality, women’s rights, minority rights and I think this is good way to inform our new president that there are a significant amount of people that believe in these things and he should keep that in mind moving forward.” When asked if he thought marches still have a purpose he said, “Yes. It takes patience and persistence, but we can change a lot of people’s minds.”
Though many were stuck outside as the theater quickly filled, all were able to listen to inspiring speeches made by Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman, Luanne Peterpaul (Chairman of Garden State Equality’s Political Action Fund), Dr. Dalia F. Fahmy (Assistant Professor of Political Science at Long Island University at Brooklyn), Congressman Donald Norcross, Diana Mejia (Co-Founder of Wind of Spirit, a NJ-based immigrant resource center), and Assemblywoman Pamela Lampitt. In addition, leaders from such organizations as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Planned Parenthood, and the National Organization for Women (NOW) spoke about why they came to march. They said they were marching for black lives, transgender rights, reproductive rights, equal pay for equal work, immigration rights, gay rights, against anti-Muslim hate, for love, for their daughters, and one man said,“Mostly, I’m marching because of math. Women are 52% of the population. It just makes sense!”
Upon conclusion of the speeches, the crowd made the half mile walk to the State House, where Assemblywoman Elizabeth Muoio spoke, followed by New Jersey civil rights icon, Edith Savage-Jennings who said, “I pray that this movement will send a message that we will no longer stand for anything that’s not right.”