Thousands attend Lawrence’s 2018 Women’s March to promote resistance, change

Hundreds of marchers fill South Park for Lawrence's 2018 Women's March on Saturday, Jan. 20, 2018.

As she addressed the thousands of participants in Lawrence’s 2018 Women’s March Saturday from the South Park pavilion, Vice Mayor Lisa Larsen said she was impressed with the size of the crowd but more encouraged by the spirit of those attending.

“The energy astounds me,” she said. “We need to take advantage of that. I want us all to roll up our sleeves, dive into the resistance and not come up until we win.”

Jolene Andersen, who organized the march with fellow political activist Christine Smith, said an estimated 2,500 people attended the South Park rally and 12-block march that followed, which ran down Massachusetts Street from the park to City Hall and back.

“We realized our goal of having a continuous loop of marchers north to City Hall and back to South Park,” she said.

Andersen said she could feel the energy and commitment for change the marchers brought to the event.

“Absolutely — I wish we were voting today,” she said. “A lot of things can happen in a year.”

The march fell on the one-year anniversary of President Donald Trump’s inauguration and was one day short of a year from the 2017 Women’s March, which attracted millions of people to Washington and other cities to advocate for women and minorities, as well as immigration reform and other issues. The pink stocking hats many marchers wore became a symbol of resistance to Trump’s administration.

Pink hats were plentiful Saturday in South Park, as were signs with political sentiments similar to those expressed at last year’s marches. Many of the signs bore anti-Trump messages, such as “Grab Trump by the mid-terms,” while others urged more general political action — “If you are not political, you’re complicit” or, more simply, “Vote.”

During her speech to the marchers, the Rev. Sherrie Taylor-Jones of Unity Church of Lawrence called for a national shift to a politics of feminism, racial equality, environmentalism and economic equality. She asked those in the crowd to march for those values instead of against political positions they disagreed with.

Feminists had changed Kansas before, said Paul Davis, a Lawrence Democrat running for the 2nd District U.S. House seat. He compared the Women’s March movement to the 19th-century Kansas suffragettes, who won women the first-in-the-nation right to vote in local elections. That same type of commitment would help the Women’s March movement achieve its goals, he said.

“One year ago, we were feeling discouraged,” he said. “We all had the opportunity to retreat into our discouragement. But we are all the descendants of pioneer women, and retreat was not an option.”

Julia Good Fox, dean of Natural and Social Sciences at Haskell Indian Nations University, and Brooklynne Mosley, a Lawrence Democratic Party organizer, said successful change started at the often-forgotten local level. Mosley urged listeners to get involved by volunteering to help candidates and campaigns.

Those candidates, Good Fox said, should “support women’s issues 100 percent of the time.”

Every vote matters, said Ursula Minor, president of the Lawrence NAACP chapter. She noted that Democrat Doug Jones narrowly defeated Republican Roy Moore in last month’s special election for the Alabama Senate because he won 98 percent of votes of black women.

As Ada Anderson of Olathe left the park to march down Massachusetts Street, she said there was evidence women were ready to make change in 2018.

“I’m ready for the election,” she said. “I think the big news is Emily’s List (an online women’s political action committee focused on abortion rights) has signed up 26,000 women to run for office this year. The last two election cycles, it was about 900.”

Standing on a planter at the corner of 10th and Massachusetts streets during the march, University of Kansas lecturer Diane Taveggia held a sign that read: “Donald Trump: We are better than this.” Taveggia said she attended the rally and march to release her anger — and to reinforce her optimism that things would change.

“That’s why I’m here with everybody,” she said. “We’ve sunk so low. Trump is ruining the country, and that makes me unbearably sad.”