Turning a march into a movement

Protesters display their signs at the Boston Women’s March for America.

Commentary by GAYLA CAWLEY

On Jan. 21, a day after Donald Trump was sworn in as the 45th president of the United States, millions of people participated in a worldwide protest aimed at the new leader of the free world.

The Women’s March on Washington was focused, along with sister marches across the country and the world, on women’s rights. Protesters, including thousands in Boston, also highlighted issues including immigration, health care, the environment, LGBTQ rights and racial justice they feel will be under attack by the new administration.

Researchers concluded the Women’s March on Washington drew three times the crowd that Trump’s inauguration did. Some estimates show that a million people participated in the Washington, D.C. march alone.

But with the marches now in the history books, marchers — especially women — are asking “what’s next — did the march really change anything?”

The protests clearly hit a nerve with Trump, or at least the numbers regarding the crowd sizes. He spent the first days of his presidency, through his press secretary, Sean Spicer, accusing the media about lying about the crowds at his inauguration, stating that it was the largest number of people to witness an incoming president.

Side-by-side pictures released by the New York Times showed that crowds at his inauguration appeared significantly smaller than President Barack Obama’s in 2009. For some, the Women’s March marked their first foray into public protesting.  

Trump has spent the first few days in office taking steps to repeal the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, defund Planned Parenthood and has officially ordered a Mexican border wall built. He’s also reportedly weighing plans to restrict refugees coming to the U.S. He’s revived the Keystone and Dakota Access pipelines, which were blocked after opposition from environmental groups during the Obama years.

For many people who took the streets on Saturday to oppose these actions, there is still much to do.

The Women’s March on Washington website has launched a 10 Actions for the first 100 Days Campaign. The first action urges people to write a postcard to their senators about an issue that matters most to them and how they plan to fight for it going forward.

The campaign encompasses what women and men who care about the issues they marched for last weekend should continue to do. They should get involved. Rather than restricting their thoughts to Facebook rants or calling out someone on Twitter, more constructive action can be taken.

One step is making sure that their vote is cast in every election, local or nationwide. There’s no use complaining about something if you didn’t vote.

People can also familiarize themselves with their local representatives and municipal leaders. Even on a local level, town and city government is filled with people speaking out about issues they’re passionate about, whether it’s opposing a development that would go in their neighborhood or coming together to brainstorm ways to stop violence in their communities.

Find out if there’s any other rallies or protests planned regarding an issue that you want to advocate for or against. Volunteer in organizations that have to do with that particular cause.

Or just simply, listen to others. One thing you may be passionate about may differ from something someone else is fighting for. Get together with other people at a coffee shop and brainstorm ideas.

But don’t make the mistake of sitting back and relying on others to make the changes for you.

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