Women’s March on Washington: Driftless Style, beyond


Decorah - The Women’s March on Washington, D.C. was held on Saturday, Jan. 21, 2017 with a rally beginning at 10 a.m. and ending at 1:15 p.m. The grassroots effort comprised of dozens of independent coordinators at the state level was helmed by four national co-chairs and a national coordinating committee.
Womensmarch.com states, “We stand together in solidarity with our partners and children for the protection of our rights, our safety, our health and our families - recognizing that our vibrant and diverse communities are the strength of our country.”
The Mission of Women’s March on Washington
Words from the Mission of Women’s March on Washington include, “In the spirit of democracy and honoring the champions of human rights, dignity and justice who have come before us, we join in diversity to show our presence in numbers too great to ignore. The Women’s March on Washington will send a bold message to our new government on their first day in office, and to the world, that women’s rights are human rights. We stand together, recognizing that defending the most marginalized among us is defending all of us.
“We support the advocacy and resistance movements that reflect our multiple and intersecting identities. We call on all defenders of human rights to join us. This march is the first step towards unifying our communities, grounded in new relationships, to create change from the grassroots level up. We will not rest until women have parity and equity at all levels of leadership in society. We work peacefully while recognizing there is no true peace without justice and equity for all.”
And they marched. 
The March went global with ABC News reporting there were 673 Sister Marches across the globe from Bulgaria to New Zealand with millions marching. 
A Women’s March to Washington also took place locally when Shirley Vermace, Ellen Rockne and Ruth Jenkins, all of Decorah, brought it upon themselves to coordinate Decorah Women’s March on Washington, Driftless Style.
Decorah and beyond
Vermace found herself and others planning to caravan to the Women’s March on Washington D.C. shortly after the March was announced.
“But as the time got nearer, one by one, we were dropping out of that commitment,” she noted. “After finding out the closest Sister March was in Des Moines, we decided to stay here. We would still march in solidarity with those in D.C.”
The March was organized, individuals registered and speakers were set up for the rally that would be held following the march at the Winneshiek County Courthouse. 
The March on Saturday began at 10 a.m., starting at Mary Christopher Park and ending with the rally.
“We were working very closely with the Decorah Police,” explained Vermace. “As people started coming in for the March, one of the Captains, Scott Herman, called me. We both realized the numbers coming in for the Saturday morning March were much more than either of us had anticipated. They offered a police escort from Mary Christopher Park, down Water Street and to the courthouse for the safety of those marching. 
“Police cars took up the front and the rear of the March. We initially thought we would be using sidewalks but the numbers made us make other plans. It was wonderful and the Decorah Police Department was very supportive.”
As the estimated 800-1,000 marchers walked, they sang and chanted, alternating between the Iowa State Motto, “Our Liberties We Prize and Our Rights We Will Maintain,” and the words, “This is what democracy looks like.”
Vermace shared it wasn’t Decorah residents alone who participated. People were in attendance from Cresco, Calmar, Monona, Waukon, Prairie du Chien, Rochester, Winona, LaCrosse, Cedar Falls, Iowa City and more.
“It was a representation of the Driftless Region at its best,” she said. “Every age was represented. We had families with infants nestled in their parents’ arms to our elderly making their way to the rally in wheelchairs.”
Liz Rog led the group in song. Speakers at the rally included Luther College assistant professor, Africana Studies and History Departments, Lauren Anderson; Michelle Boike, Luther Diversity Center and proud Indian-American; local poet and “curmudgeon,” Charlie Langton; transgender clergy candidate In Care with Metropolitan Community Churches, Reverend Seminarian River Needham; Luther freshman, majoring in international studies and political science, Asha Aden; proud Latina and Decorah resident, born in Mexico, Gloria Wiest; Luther College, Social Work Major, Harleigh Boldridge; community member and founder of NE Iowa Peace & Justice Center, Mike Blevins; blog editor, parent and Decorah resident, Cerrisa Sneten; Reverend Anne Edison-Albright, pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, serving in the College Ministries at Luther College; and local activist and Decorah High School student, Ayla Carbonell.
Why They Marched
“This type of thing is typically out of my comfort zone,” said Brita Nelson, Decorah. “In spite of that, I went to support the local effort and because the mission and vision of the March really spoke to me. There is something so powerful in standing with women and men across the country to assert that women’s rights are human rights. In the end, it was both empowering and incredibly uplifting. I am so glad I went.”
Anna Gallerani and twin, Erica Gallerani, have ties to Howard County, their great-grandmother was the late, Mary Hudecek, Protivin. The two, both college students, marched in Washington D.C. with at least 500,000 others.
“We went to the Women’s March to Washington because this election was both confusing and disappointing,” said Anna. “I felt that the March would help put it into perspective. We thought maybe we can still make an impact in how we react to what is happening. 
“We can’t fade into the background. We need to make our voices heard as constituents so that policy makers feel pressure to make legislation that reflects our morals and values. 
“It was really empowering to experience the support and unity of so many women and allies in the Capitol of our nation. I’m thankful that I was able to participate in the movement.”
Vermace used the following to describe the general mood at the Decorah Women’s March to Washington D.C., Driftless Style as, “Euphoric, uniting, inspiring, joyful, passionate, encouraging. This moved people to action. We have to get involved. When we are involved we affect change and hope for finding common ground.”

Cresco Times

Phone: 563-547-3601
Fax: 563-547-4602

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Cresco, IA 52136

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