The Women’s March on Montana initially anticipated about 500 participants, but grew to the size of about 10,000. The march, held on Saturday, Jan. 21 in Helena, was an organized reaction to the recent inauguration of President Donald Trump and the unrest it stirred throughout communities within the country. Helena was one of many organized marches throughout the country.
The protest planners stated that they were organizing the event due to the rhetoric in the past election. Specifically, the rhetoric that was seen as insulting, demonizing and threatening to “women, immigrants of all statuses, those with diverse religious faiths, particularly Muslim, people who identify as LGBTQ, Native and Indigenous people, Black and Brown people, people with disabilities, the economically impoverished and survivors of sexual assault.”
Karen deVries, an assistant professor in the Honors College, Political Science, Women Gender and Sexuality Studies and University Studies, played a key role in organizing students’ participation in the march. She was joined by Amanda Hendrix-Komoto, an assistant professor in the History and Philosophy department. DeVries stated, “Donald Trump’s vision of making America great again is racist, sexist, capitalist, and authoritarian… My background in political theory and intersectional feminisms has taught me that the best way to confront these kinds of dangers is to organize and resist every step of the way. To do that, you need to build community. [Hendrix-Komoto and I] created a listserv and started collecting emails (through Facebook and by word of mouth) to help people carpool or ride a bus.”
MSU pre-nursing student and march participant, Susie Porter, explained her reasoning to march: “Ever since election day, when Trump’s presidency became a reality, I felt afraid. In his campaign, he promised to change laws that would directly affect my health and health care options, as well as speak out against minorities, the disabled and other oppressed groups in a disturbing way.” She explained she felt comforted standing with others who feel similarly. She described two Native American women in full ceremonial attire who sang for the crowd. “I realized this was a significant moment for [them] to share [their] culture with the open eyes, ears and minds of nearly 10,000 people, and that was truly moving.”
The march’s reach extended far past women’s rights, exemplified in the diversity seen at the march, both through participants, signs and speeches, as well as having recognized a variety of issues that people feel are at stake, such as environmental protection, counteractions to climate change, access to healthcare, LGBTQ+ rights and the livelihood of many other minorities.
Molly Zeif, an MSU student in political science and march participant explained the inclusivity of the march’s purpose as, “for those within the United States and abroad to come together and show support for one another. Hopefully, through this movement, we can connect people across the state and country to stand up for any individual who may need it.”
Another MSU student, Teya Hetherington, explained her particular motive to march, “I believe that everyone should be equal, and if I’m going to post my opinion on social media, I have to back it up. I can’t just be another keyboard warrior. I felt like I owed it to the women in generations before mine to use the rights they fought for me to have; I couldn’t let all their hard work go unappreciated.”
One participant came to Helena to stand up for herself and victims of sexual assault. “I was sexually assaulted when I was just turning 18 and he took my virginity from me, technically, and I am now standing up for the women who are now going through that.”
The Women’s March on Montana plans to meet again to discuss how to keep the movement alive and continue to make an impact in Montana. More information can be found at womensmarchmontana.com or on their facebook page.