A political cause needs a compelling appeal to get people to stand strong in 46 degrees under hovering dark grey skies. But Sunday afternoon, January 20, nearly 40 Oregonian men and women did just that at a peaceful protest entitled Womxn’s Rally 2019: Standing Strong in the Umpqua Valley.
This year’s women’s rights rally is a continuation of the 2017 Women’s March which inspired record voting as well as a record number of women candidates and female election winners.
The 2019 Women’s March served as a uniting voice demanding that congress listen to issues of inequality including equal pay for women, the LGBTI community’s rights and the Black Lives Matter movement to name a few.
On Jan. 20, the Garden Valley sidewalk in front of Roseburg’s Fred Meyer was filled with a small crowd of enthusiastic marchers waving at the four lanes of vehicles. They yelled thanks to those that honked in reply to signs that read “Honk if you think.”
Occasionally, other motorists passing by demonstrated their disapproval with colorful hand gestures in defiance. The passionate group of rally attendees stayed focused on their collective effort to improve the quality of living in the Umpqua Valley area.
Amongst those gathered to fight for equal rights, protesters waved flags, and several protesters’ t-shirts seemed to shout their printed words, and many signs used exclamations such as “Read real news,” “Be the change,” “Speak out,” “Rise up” and “Go fact yourself.”
Alana Lenihan, Sutherlin resident, had almost given up on the idea of coordinating this year’s Women’s March. “I will be honest, when the topic of the Women’s March for 2019 came up, my response was lackluster at best. After talking to women in our community, however, I realized how important this event was to our community,” Lenihan said.
Protesters expressed that it is vital for communities to speak out for the betterment of residents. ”Everyone deserves to have a voice, and in an area where conservatives have dominated, it is important for us to ‘stand strong.’ That’s where the slogan for this year’s March came from. The 2018 election proves women have the power to get things done, and the women of the Umpqua Valley need to stand up and stand strong to make this community the best it can be,” Lenihan said.
For southern Oregon raised Marlee Gustine and Freya Carey, who attended the event, not even wet hair from the rain could dampen their energy or their willingness to comment about the importance of being involved at their first march.
Gustine said she had always wanted to go to a women’s march but noted, “I’m usually working on the days that they happen.” Carey nodded in agreement and added, “It’s empowering and gives me hope.”
Gustine’s words sounded heartfelt as she explained the importance of her own attendance to bring attention to causes she feels are under-represented: “First, because I’m a woman. Second, obviously it covers a lot of things, like the LGBTQI community, being a part of that, as well as someone who supports and has needed the services of planned parenthood – it all matters to me.”
Carey also encouraged UCC students: “Keep your strength.”
Gustine also weighed in saying, “For me, it’s all about finding your voice and speaking your truth, even if other people don’t want to hear it. What they think and say can’t touch what’s inside of you; it has no bearing whatsoever. It’s about reaching inside and finding out what matters to you and going out there and doing something about it.”
Dave Sevall, a UCC alumnus who grew up in Roseburg, was motivated to attend by memories of his three daughters: “I can remember, when they were teenagers and growing up, they were in some way harassed sexually by men and had situations where the #MeToo movement today helps them see that men have no right to treat them as objects or anything other than equal.”
Sevall came to find Sunday’s march was about more than the Women’s Movement. “This is also about what’s going on in our nation today. I have learned that truth is the most important thing you can do in your life … to tell the truth,” Sevall said.
With arms held high, Sevall displayed his sign: “Nothing but lies are coming out of the White House today, situations where we can’t trust our president. So, I’m out here [to demonstrate] as my sign says: ‘Putin’s Atop Trump’s Tower,’” Sevall said.
Sevall also added a suggestion to UCC students: “Read as much as you can of various publications, newspapers, magazines, books; also watch various newscasts. Don’t just watch one side of an issue; you can watch Fox, I watch Fox, but you can also watch MSNBC, CNN, or read the New York Times,” Sevall said.
Sevall continued, “You can get information from various sources, and you can weigh it yourself. Decide for yourself what’s going on in America; don’t just buy one source for news.”
There was a tense vibe at one time during the march related to the potential of going backwards in the pursuit of equal rights. Yet supporters exchanged pleasantries while mingling and thanking one another for coming out.
Francis Eatherington, a Roseburg resident and activist for Oregon’s environment in addition to women’s rights, smiled and said, “It’s cold. It’s wet. It’s raining. And I have a zillion other things to do,” but then she expounded on a force driving her motivation to serve as a prominent voice in the Umpqua Valley community; “for women’s rights to be equal to men’s rights, for the environment to be equal with corporations, those types of equality issues, we’re so far behind the curve that you have to be out here complaining about it. If you don’t complain about it, nothing will ever happen to get better. But I can’t tell you I’m thrilled to be here,” Eatherington said.
Considering the long, hard journey for women’s rights that Eatherington has fought through, she offered a note of encouragement to the Umpqua Valley’s new leaders: “In case young female students at UCC don’t know, when I went to community college, I had to wear a dress,” Eatherington said, “I’m so happy to be able to wear pants in public!”
Eatherington smiles about how far Americans have come in some areas. “I took an aptitude test in high school that came out that my number one job would a park ranger. But my mother said to me, oh no, you can’t be in parks; that’s only for guys. And to be a policeman, No, but you can be a typist in a police office,” Eatherington said as she recalled the past.
Currently, Eatherington has observed women thinking that feminist means an angry person. “Feminism is simply trying to get equality for women. You don’t have to be angry about it,” Eatherington said.
Astashia Trevino is a current UCC Human Services student, Roseburg resident, and mother of two who aspires to be a cop. She expressed her support of the push for women’s rights. “I think it’s powerful that courageous women have united for decades to fight for women’s rights, getting the right to vote, to do whatever job they want. Women around the world will never stop fighting,” Trevino said.