UVM students protest at Montpelier women’s march

Molly O’Shea/The Vermont Cynic

Hundreds of UVM students joined over 15,000 Vermonters rallying in Montpelier in support of human rights and equality.

In what became the largest protest in Vermont’s history, thousands gathered on the steps of the statehouse for the Women’s March on Montpelier and Unity Rally Jan. 21, according to VPR.

The rally was organized through Rights & Democracy Vermont, a nonprofit organization that works with civil rights and climate change groups in the states of Vermont and New Hampshire.

Vermonters of all ages gathered on Montpelier High School’s soccer field for the start of the march, which led to the steps of the capitol building.

Senior Krithika Gnanaguru went to the rally because gender equality will be affected by the new president, she said.

“I’m marching not only for me, but all women across the country, regardless of their sexual orientation, race, gender, ability, religion or nationality,” Gnanaguru said. “All of us have something to lose if we let half the country be degraded to simply objects.”

Gnanaguru is marching for feminism, which has not been covered well recently by media outlets, she said.

“The media has made feminism out to be something bad that only white females are interested in for their own sake,” Gnanaguru said. “But that’s not what feminism is all about. Feminism is for everyone.”

Throughout the crowd many protesters held signs that read “Keep your tiny hands to yourself” and “Pussy grabs back.”

First-year Yael Dormont said it was a powerful moment.

“It was really empowering to see the everyone there,” Dormont said. “It was really nice to see all of these people are coming together as one.”

A friend of Dormont’s brought a sign that read “No coat hanger abortions,” and one protester’s reaction to the sign stood out, she said.

“There was a woman who looked to be in her 70s,” Dormont said. “She looked at me and said, ‘That’s so true,’ and ‘We can’t go back to that.’”

As the rally moved from the soccer field to the state lawn, Montpelier was filled with various chants and cheers from protesters.

“Hey hey. What do you say? Women’s rights are here to stay,” the crowd chanted as it left the soccer field.

Upon arrival at the state lawn, several speakers took to the stage to address the crowd.

Elise Greaves, field organizer for Rights & Democracy VT, was the first to speak.

“The Women’s March on Montpelier and unity rally is one of the 600 sister marches happening today across the world,” Greaves said. “Today we stand in solidarity with 1.5 million brothers and sisters who are marching for equality and justice for all.”

Greaves urged protesters to raise their voices for human rights.

“We have a bold message for the incoming administration,” she said. “We are here today to say that black lives matter, that no matter what country you’re born in, what religion you practice, who you love, how you identify, your ability level, or how much money you make, you are valued.”

Following Greaves’ initial speech, several guest speakers approached the podium to share their opinions, including Sen. Bernie Sanders.

Sanders said his family was among those in the crowd while his daughter was protesting in Washington D.C.

“What we are saying today, here in Montpelier, in Washington, in Los Angeles, and all over this country, Mr. Trump, we are not going backwards, we are going forward,” he said. “In fact your bigotry, and your ugliness are going to bring us together in a progressive movement.”

The number of years women have fought their reproductive rights is too many, Sanders said.

“2.5 million women, mostly low income, go to Planned Parenthood for quality healthcare,” he said. “We are not going back.”

Among the other speakers in attendance was Meagan Gallagher, CEO of Planned Parenthood of Northern New England.

Gallagher lead the crowd in a chant asking, “What do we do when reproductive rights are under attack?”

The crowd responded with “We fight back.”

“18,000 people in Vermont come to Planned Parenthood every year,” Gallagher said. “They come for birth control, cancer screenings, testing and treating for STIs and, yes, safe and legal abortion.”

Planned Parenthood has seen women wanting to get IUDs now due to a concern over the new presidential administration, she said.

“Now there are some people in Washington who want to block people from coming to us for care, and you know who will be hurt most by this,” Gallagher said. “People who are already facing challenges to accessing healthcare.”

This is the biggest fight Planned Parenthood has ever faced, but it has never been stronger, she said.

“Our doors stay open,” Gallagher said.

Many crowd members applauded Gallagher with tears after hearing her speech.

Dormont said she was inspired by Gallagher’s speech.

“One thing Gallagher mentioned was that Planned Parenthood also helps people who aren’t female by birth or identifying as female,” she said. “I just saw pink everywhere, and there’s Planned Parenthood stuff everywhere and I think it’s just super important to be supporting Planned Parenthood right now.”

Local resident Meredith Holch said she was at the rally to protect everything that women’s rights have gained over the last 45 years.

“I heard somebody say at the Washington march this morning that Trump took power yesterday, but actually it’s the people who are going to take the power,” Holch said. “One man cannot take the power.”