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Community calls for action at Women's March 2.0

Hannah Swayze • Updated Jan 21, 2018 at 12:07 AM

"Hear our voices, hear our vote."

Women and men of all ages turned out Saturday to make their voices heard again for Women's March 2.0 in Johnson City.

Women across the country returned to the streets to make their voices heard, and East Tennessee was no exception.

The original Women's March on Washington was a year ago, when thousands showed up to march for women's rights the day after Donald Trump's inauguration as president. The marches went beyond Washington, D.C., to cities across the country, drawing crowds of thousands.

More than 35 community organizations were represented at Saturday’s march, including area Democratic parties, Women Matter Northeast Tennessee, the Tri-Cities Chapter of the NAACP, the Pride Community Center, Indivisible, Muslim Community of Northeast Tennessee and many more. 

The march

Around 1 p.m., women and men of all ages gathered at the East Tennessee State University parking lot at the corner of University Parkway and State of Franklin Road, armed with signs and voices.

A few hundred marchers slowly made their way with colorful and quirky banners and signs to Founders Park.

Signs varied from person to person: Many had to do with protests about the president and others supported science, but most declared women's rights up and down State of Franklin.

And everyone had something to say.

Johnson City resident Brooke Bailey carried a sign that read "Make America feminist and make feminism intersectional for once." The sign is a reference to merchandise sold by the band War on Women.

Bailey said what brought her out to the march was not just rights for women, but for everyone.

"I'm here to stand up with women, but my sign says ‘intersectional feminism’ because we have to stand up for our undocumented immigrants, for our Dreamers, our people who are disabled and our LGBT and especially trans rights," said Bailey. "The administration's just chipping away at their rights and their protections, and I think we just have to stand up for them and protect them."

The rally

The day wasn’t over when the march ended.

At Founders Park, participants gathered in the amphitheater to sing together and listen to speakers that included local activists, community leaders and political candidates.

Kate Craig, one of the event’s organizers, addressed the crowd first.

"Some people might say we're gathering here today for political reasons, but that wouldn't be telling the whole story," Craig said. "Even though the 2016 election ignited a fire that a year later has continued to not only burn, but grow, we are here today because we believe in each other, and that tearing down anyone of us weakens our communities and our nation. We believe that supporting and valuing women — all women — is the only way that we will build a more perfect union."

Led by Craig, speakers included Ruth Taylor Read, chairwoman of Women Matter Northeast Tennessee, and Nathan Farnor, ETSU student and Board of Trustees member. Also mong the speakers was retired teacher-turned-activist Michelle Treece, who formally announced her candidacy for Johnson City Board of Education.

Speakers also included some well into a campaign, like Marty Olsen, who is running for Congress to represent Tennessee's First District.

During his speech, Olsen cited last year's women's march as part of his inspiration to run for the House seat.

"It was very important in my development because it made me realize that together, we can raise our voices and make a difference," said Olsen, speaking of the march he attended last year with his wife.

He encouraged those in the crowd to step up and vote or even run for local office.

"If we're going to change the way we run our country we have to change the people we elect. And we're gonna have to change some minds," said Olsen.

What's next?

Part of what the Women's March and the sister marches around the country encourage is not just one day of activism, but remaining active after that one day.

The audience was given information on how to register to vote, and then after the rally dispersed, were encouraged to attend meet and greets at local businesses to meet candidates who spoke at the rally.

To learn more about involvement or the group that organized the march and the rally, visit the Tri-Cities Women's March Facebook page.

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