The rhetoric of the past election cycle has insulted, demonized, and threatened many of us–women, immigrants of all statuses, those with diverse religious faiths particularly Muslim, people who identify as LGBTQIA, Native and Indigenous people, Black and Brown people, people with disabilities, the economically impoverished and survivors of sexual assault. We are confronted with the question of how to move forward in the face of national and international concern and fear.
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. – “What We Stand For,” Women’s March on Philadelphia
On January 21, as many as 20,000 people are expected to attend the Women’s March on Philadelphia as part of a “sister march” to the Women’s March on Washington taking place the same day in Washington, DC.
January 21 is, of course, the day after the inauguration of Donald Trump as president of the United States.
What’s incredible about these events, and the sister marches scheduled to take place all over the world, is that they are truly grassroots endeavors. People are simply fed up, and eager to do something about the assault on our collective dignity and freedom.
It’s an amazing moment. For the last several years, our opponents have doubled down on efforts to chisel away at reproductive rights by targeting low-income women’s access to reproductive healthcare; they’ve stirred up a backlash in response to the public demands of rape survivors demanding justice on college campuses and beyond; and in state legislatures across the country, they’ve refused to take basic steps toward workplace equality while hypocritically preaching the gospel of personal responsibility. And now this.
Women and allies are taking it to the streets (again).
As more information become available about these marches, we will do our best to keep you informed. To that end, we recently spoke with Rachael Beyer, one of the organizers of the Women’s March on Philadelphia, about what to expect in Philadelphia on January 21.
WLP: The Women’s March in Washington is happening the same day as the Women’s March on Philadelphia. What’s the relationship between these events?
Beyer: Our event here in Philadelphia is a “sister march,” and there are sister marches taking place that day all across the United States as well as around the world, and we’re connected to all of those. One of our organizers is in touch with the other march organizers; they’re having weekly meetings, and they’re talking to each other about common problems and goals. The idea of the sister marches is for people who are unable to get to DC. We’re not trying to keep people from DC, but for women and allies who are unable to get to DC for whatever reason, they have the option to march in Philly.
WLP: How did this all connected? Did national organizers reach out to start a march here in Philadelphia?
Beyer: It was the reverse, actually. I’m not one of the original organizers, but it started with four women in Philly saying, ‘why don’t we do something here?’ What they decided to do was form an organization called “Philly Women Rally.” The idea was that the march could be a starting point, rather than the ending point, of a new organizing body in the area.
WLP: What does the local organizational structure look like?
Beyer: At this point there are six main organizers, and we’ve got subcommittees on all the different things that need to be done for the march, and all the subcommittees have three to six people, and we’re in the process of forming those. We had a whole bunch of volunteers come forward, we’re in the process of developing a code of conduct for volunteers, forming committees and getting everything going.
WLP: Are you still seeking volunteers?
Beyer: We are definitely still looking for volunteers! There’s a volunteer form people can fill out on our website and Facebook page. We’re looking for people who speak different languages, fundraising, community outreach, people who are willing to be sign holders… we’re looking for people to do things for the day of the march, and for people to do things ahead of time as well.
WLP: Okay, so what’s the vision? Can you walk me through what January 21 will look like in Philadelphia?
Beyer: We’re still getting the time set, but we have the location set. We’ll start the march at Logan Square, then go down the Benjamin Franklin Parkway to the Art Museum, where we’ll have a space set up. Once we get to the rally point, we’ll go from being a march to being a rally, and there will be all sorts of performers. We’re still getting the performers lined up, but we’ll present a number of poets/spoken word artists, singers, and speakers.
At the rally point, in addition to speakers and singers and artists, we’ll host an informational village. The informational village is being organized so community organizations can set up a table and share information, and people can learn more about how to get involved or donate to local groups. A lot of the people coming to Philly are coming from Altoona, Lancaster, Wilkes-Barre–they’re coming in from areas all over Pennsylvania and we’d really love for them to take back what’s going on in Philly. And for the people who live in Philly, hopefully they can learn about great organizations. So we’re looking for that kind of feedback loop.
WLP: Is the Women’s March on Philadelphia is the only one in Pennsylvania?
Beyer: Yes. We are the only in Pennsylvania, so we’ve been getting a lot of response from people in New Jersey and Delaware. I’m the point person for transportation, and we’ve gathered information from people coming in from out of the area. We’ve been working with Septa as part of getting the city permits, and once we have good information from Septa, we’ll post it.
Q: There was a lot of back-and-forth reports regarding permits for the Women’s March on Washington. What’s the status for the Women’s March on Philadelphia?
Beyer: As of last week, the city gave us permission to go ahead and do the press release. They’ve given us permission to do the march. Having the permit in hand hasn’t happened yet because of paperwork, but everything is a go. The city has to coordinate with the police and the Department of Homeland Security. Security concerns are definitely being addressed to ensure it’s a safe environment for people to bring their kids.
WLP: Is this a protest against Trump, a rally for women’s rights, or both?
Beyer: The main goal is not a protest. The idea is not taking a political side, not supporting Trump or Clinton or Bernie Sanders or whoever. The idea of this is to put forward women’s rights, and use this moment of unity and say, ‘We’re here together, we believe women, immigrants, LBGTQ, people who have disability issues, women of color, all these women can come together and say, ‘Women have the right to have equal rights.’ It’s a human rights issue. We want it to be positive and uplifting, which we is why we want it to have the educational component.
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