Womxn’s March draws hundreds in Port Townsend

Allison Arthur aarthur@ptleader.com
Posted 1/24/17

Human rights activist Emelia De Souza had to ask people to wait on Saturday, Jan. 21 before speeches could begin at Haller Fountain in downtown Port Townsend.

There were so many people coming to …

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Womxn’s March draws hundreds in Port Townsend

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Human rights activist Emelia De Souza had to ask people to wait on Saturday, Jan. 21 before speeches could begin at Haller Fountain in downtown Port Townsend.

There were so many people coming to the Womxn’s March, hundreds more than organizer De Souza was expecting.

Port Townsend joined cities across the country and across the globe last Saturday in hosting a “Womxn’s March” protest the day after Donald J. Trump took the oath of office as the 45th president of the United States.

There was a “Holding the Line” event here on Inauguration Day, Jan. 20, attended by an estimated 200 people. They stood, hand to hand, along sections of Water Street from the Washington State Ferries terminal down several blocks to the Flagship Landing mall.

It was hard to tell how many people turned out on Saturday during the Womxn’s March.

City of Port Townsend Sgt. Troy Surber talked to protesters and estimated as many as 1,000 people might have been on hand.

“Wow. That’s all I could say. Totally blown away. First I thought maybe a couple dozen. Even thought [of] canceling,” De Souza said after the event. “After our second planning meeting, I was encouraged again and thought maybe 50 and I would not be embarrassed marching.”

“By 9:45 a.m., Sgt. Surber said to me that he was shutting down Water Street because so many people showed. When we made it to the fountain, my heart soared like an eagle. I felt belonged, part of. All I could see was faces. Some say a thousand,” De Souza said.

Protesters gathered first at Pope Marine Park, across from City Hall, and chatted, commenting on the creativity of the various signs people carried. The signs reflected a gamut of topics, mostly dealing with women’s rights and Trump’s rhetoric.

Shellie Mueller, 68, of Port Townsend, held a sign that read simply “Bread & Roses,” an old political slogan associated with a textile strike in Massachusetts in 1912.

“It’s when women marched out of the factories,” Mueller said, noting that Judy Collins recorded a song of the same name in the 1970s.

“This is the first day I felt an uplifting of spirit,” said Mueller’s friend Pat Nerison of Port Townsend, 70, who had joined her. She said she was feeling a sense of energy she had not felt before.

Dana Kovac, 70, and Mueller and Nerison were all from the community of Ocean Grove, overlooking Discovery Bay. “And we’re all pleased to be here,” said Kovac.

Standing not far from them was Lavender Fulton of Port Townsend, who held a sign that read, “This Pussy Isn’t Passive.”

Fulton said she had to explain to her 11-year-old son Toby why she was protesting and why it was not OK to say the things about women that Trump had said in taped conversations released during the presidential campaign.

“It brought up a good conversation,” Fulton said.

A few yards from her on Saturday morning stood Lillian Greenwood, who was carrying a sign that read, “Choose Action, Reject Excuses.”

“Nothing is good enough for him,” she said of Trump. “And I’m sick of it.”

The march got underway and the crowd started down Water Street, turning right at Adams Street. Some in the crowd chanted, “Women, united, can never be divided.”

There were women who had marched before in the 1970s, and there were women like Kiera Hodlik and friend Suzanne Carlson, who seemed to be enjoying their first protest.

“It’s the first time it’s been necessary,” said Carlson, 42, who carried a pink, heart-shaped banner with “Love, Love, Love” on it.

SPEAKING OUT

At Haller Fountain, the statue Galatea still sported a pink pussy hat from the start of protesting on Friday.

Two women stood on opposite sides of the fountain, hoisting a banner: “Port Townsend Womxn’s March.”

De Souza thanked the crowd for coming and acknowledged that she was overwhelmed at the outpouring before welcoming U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer, 6th District, to take the microphone.

Although a number of Democrats had boycotted Trump’s election, Kilmer had attended. But the following day, he had joined protesters across his district.

“Today, I stood up with folks in Port Angeles and Port Townsend as we exercised our First Amendment right to advocate for the rights and dignity of all Americans,” Kilmer wrote on his Facebook page of attending not just one, but two, protests that day.

“We sent a clear message that we are ready to stand up and fight for our values and for the ability of everyone, no matter race, gender, class or creed, to pursue their dreams.”

Speaking impromptu at the march in Port Townsend, Kilmer touched on not only women’s issues but health care, climate change, immigration, Social Security, Medicare and education as issues of concern under the

Trump administration.

“I’m going to continue fighting back against any attempts to take health care away from women or deport someone who has lived here all their life or take away the Medicare guarantee for seniors, or make our planet less safe for my daughters,” Kilmer said on Facebook. “Today we made clear that we are going to stand up and fight when we need to.”

“All immigrants should be respected, not demonized,” Kilmer said at the Port Townsend march. Kilmer got a rousing round of applause when he said, “Everyone is welcome in the United States of America.”

He also noted that he was there not just for women from the district, but for his daughters, Sophie and Tess, and for their future.

Kilmer said he had talked with women from all parts of his district, from Tacoma to the Quinault Indian Nation. Women in Tacoma told him health care was a matter of “life or death” for their adult children. And a Quinault tribal member said her home used to be a football field away from the ocean and now the ocean is at her front porch.

“Thank you for being willing to stand up and fight back,” Kilmer said.

And the crowd indicated with applause and shouts that it was more than willing.

Singer Linda Davis of Chimacum said the time seemed right for a song that people could join her in singing. “We Are a Gentle, Angry People” is a song that can be amended to fit the needs of the people, she said, taking suggestions from the crowd.

“We are a gentle, angry people,” begins the song, “and we are singing, singing for our lives.”

Davis was joined by Dr. Katherine Ottaway and Jill Hoins in leading the crowd to sing.

In addition to singing about all lives, the crowd also sang about water, peace, education and other issues of concern as Trump assumes office.

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