Saturday, August 13, 2005
Washington March for Women's Rights
THAT’S RIGHT EVEN IN THESE MODERN TIMES YOUNG AND OLD STILL MARCH
With our black on pink T-
shirts featuring the slogan "We Won't Go Back." emblazed over a crescent moon featuring a nude goddess silhouette holding the female symbol, 10 members of Wichita's organization ZAP joined possibly the largest women's march in US history, in Washington DC, April 25, 2004.
Wichita organizations that sent delegations to this historic event, including the local chapters of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, the National Organization for Women and Wichita's Maggot Punks. Some of us took planes, some got on a chartered bus and others drove. By my estimates we had well more than 20 people from Wichita.
Also attending was local abortion Doctor George Tiller and his staff. Tiller addressed crowd at a fund raising party held the night before the rally, not for from the site of the march. Tiller mingled with such celebrities as actresses Cybill Shepherd, Tyne Daly, Singer Cris Williamson and the rock group BETTY. He and his staff also took part in the march.
Both organizers of the march and The Washington Post, April 26, 2004, agreed that this may have been the largest march for women's rights in history. The organizers estimated the crowd to be about 1.15 million and the Post estimated more than 500,000. This was clearly a historical event for those of us who went.
"It was fantastic to be a part of the largest civil rights demonstration in U.S. History," said Carol June, a ZAP member.
ZAP is a rapid action street theatre group and the letters don't stand for anything.
"It took two hours for the demonstrators to clear the mall," June added. "There had to be over a million. Not only were people shoulder to shoulder, thousands were under the trees on the side and thousands more sat in front of the main stage in the grass."
The Post reported: "yesterday's March for Women's Lives was among the largest demonstrations ever held on the mall."
June's granddaughter, Danyale Lawrence-June, also marched with the ZAP contingency.
"It was exiting because so many people were there," said Lawrence-June. "It felt strange because of the size of the crowd."
She added that she liked the experience and hoped to attend future marches.
"There were people from all over, California, other states and people of all ages," she said.
The March itself had to be experience to be appreciated. By the time our group got to the last Metro (subway system) we had to walk slowly through a huge crowd. We met people from all over the country.
"I'm glad to see people from Kansas here," a lady from New Jersey said when she noticed that our shirts said "Wichita Kansas" on them. "It's good to know that some people from Wichita are pro-choice."
We discussed the constant battles we have with the religious right in this area. Many people were glad to know that anti-abortion groups like Operation Rescue don't represent all Kansans.
What really made this march unique were all the young people. Some were organized out of colleges. Some were high school age. They outnumbered those over thirty by two to one. This was clearly the younger generation of progressive women flexing their muscles.
There were a few hundred anti-abortion protesters and even with their bull horns they were clearly drowned out by the roar of their opponents.
Troops of young women chanted: "Pro life, your name's a lie, you don't care if women die;" "Pray, you'll need it, your cause will be defeated" and "It's my body, it's my choice."
While there were the usual conventional looking demonstrators, there were some really inventive outfits and chants. There was a group called Radical Cheerleaders, girls dressed in black with black and red socks, orange and read hair and sporting black pom-poms. There was a group of belly dancers. A few young girls went topless except for some pro-choice stickers over their nipples. There was a large group of women wearing T-shirts calling themselves Radical Women. They belong to a group called Revolutionary Feminist for Reproductive Rights. Their shirts attacked capitalism and called for universal health care along with supporting abortion rights.
Some other national organization present were Refuse and Resist, the Act Now to Stop War and End Racism (ANSWER) Coalition and the Ad-Hoc Nepal Solidarity Committee, whose members were distributing pamphlets called "Revolutionary Women of Nepal." The pamphlets discussed Nepal women's fight for abortion and other rights.
There seemed to be a large number of Trotskyist organizations and anarchist groups. Some anarchist wore black clothes and circle A's. Some had scarves they wore as if they were bandits. One person carried a black flag. There were other factions of leftists as well, everything from Young Democratic Socialists to the Workers World Party and the Revolutionary Communist Party.
There had been a large demonstration of several thousand against the International Monetary Fund in front of the World Bank the day before the women's march. It was dominated by anarchist, with large numbers of socialists. The crowd was smaller than anticipated. I attended it and it was a lively march, with lots of young people chanting, banging drums, carrying lots of anarchist flags and even flipping off the industrial leaders who met inside these buildings. Many of these radical groups came back the next day for the women's march.
One of the major themes of the day was to get rid of President George W. Bush. Anti-war activists and political groups of all kinds stuck to the theme that this president has been a disaster for the US.
The Wichita Eagle, our local daily, did not print any stories of local people who attended the march. When contacted, a reporter for the Eagle, said she was unaware of local people going. She added that the paper decided to go with the national wire story and didn’t talk to members of either side.