Diverse and united, women march

Angry with President Donald Trump’s administration and inspired to participate in local, state, and federal politics, thousands of women, and men, marched Saturday on the Capitol in Hartford.

Women’s marches nationwide, including one in New York that drew an estimated 200,000 people, according to police there, commemorated the one-year anniversary of Trump’s inauguration — and the birth of a resistance movement.

“We were told to forget our truths. We were told to be silent,” said Cindy Boynton, a Milford author, professor and first-time political candidate for state representative, addressing a Hartford crowd that police estimated at 10,000.

Embracing the spirit of the “Me Too” movement that declares women will no longer remain silent about sexual violence, Boynton said, “Without gender equality, there is no justice.”

Hartford marchers chanted “This is what democracy looks like,” “Love not hate, make America Great,” and “Women’s Rights are human right and human rights are women’s rights,” on their way to the Capitol to hear a series of speakers.

Fairfield resident Nancy Lefkowitz said God was on the side of the resistance in providing such a nice day, with sunshine and temperatures reaching nearly 50 degrees.

In New York, Connecticut groups converged on the West Side, joining hundreds of thousands of marchers in a crowd that appeared to be at least 80 percent women.

At the 72nd Street subway entrance on Broadway, two Westport-based contingents — the Unitarian Church and DefenDemocracy — happened upon each other, and celebrated the day as the march began. That was one small, symbolic reflection of the entire movement — coming together to focus on the elections.

“The idea is that unification has to happen and is happening,” said Darcy Hicks, who founded DefenDemocracy after last year’s inaugural protest marches.

“Last year’s march was about the power of women and women’s voices being heard,” said Laura Totten, holding a DefenDemocracy banner with Hicks and Jeanne Bowles, a Westport teacher. “This year, it’s about the vote.”

And with that, the chanting began, and the pink mass moved toward Midtown Manhattan.

Focus on local politics

Many of the Hartford marchers said they were inspired to political engagement in the year since Trump’s inauguration, and to even run for office.

“The movement has evolved in a year, and there’s huge recognition that local politics and local participation is so necessary, which is why we’re here in Hartford,” said Lucy Tancridi, a Redding resident and member of the resistance group Indivisible Connecticut 4 (ICT4).

Many said a renewed interest in local politics informed their decisions to March Saturday in Hartford.

“The first year, I went to D.C.; this year I’m going to Hartford,” Stamford resident Miriam Matos said.

Frustration with the Trump administration motivated many.

“I’m marching to promote human rights, DACA, Planned Parenthood and pretty much everything that’s happened in the last 100 days I want to undo,” Lauren Bove, a Fairfield resident said, adding, “Trump did one thing: He got us motivated.”

Gubernatorial candidate and Greenwich resident Dita Bhargava said the shock of Trump’s election inspired her candidacy.

“This was not the time to lean back, and absolutely the time to lean it,” she said. “I felt a sense of duty to step forward with my economic plan as a women in a (candidate) field of men.

Bhargava said she hopes to enact more expansive paid family leave and other family-friendly policies, if elected.

Sights set on the election

State Rep. Christin McCarthy Vahey, D-Fairfield, said that with less than 25 percent of the state Legislature made up of women, “we need more women at the table.”

“We need humanity back in our government and I think women can help with that,” Fairfield resident Karen Wackerman said.

Many women said they’re focused on electing women in the 2018 mid-term elections. As Weston resident Debra Marrone said, “the weight of the resistance will build and show up at the polls.”

For some, the march brought back the feeling of activism from another era.

“We cut our teeth in the Vietnam War and are marching again,” said Westport resident Cynthia McDonald.

Although many in the New York crowd said the goal this year is progress in elections, speakers at the corner of Central Park mostly told stories about inclusion and exclusion — as lesbians, Muslims, Jews, Mexicans and people from other groups.

“The more diverse their stories are, the more opportunities there are for the crowd to really empathize and connect and vote,” Hicks said.

In Hartford, the sense of a regression in women’s equality and social justice, coupled with a renewed commitment to political participation, was palpable.

“I just felt something has gone terribly wrong with women’s voices. We turned our backs somewhere along the way,” Margarita Garces-Shapiro, a Weston resident and former employee of U.S. Rep. Jim Himes’ congressional office, said at the Hartford march.

“I’m here to start the second year of the resistance and make sure autocracy doesn’t happen in Washington,” said Mark Einsenberg, a Bridgeport resident and ICT4 member. “I’m marching against the march towards tyranny.”

Emphasis on inclusion

“(Democracy) only function we make it function,” said state Rep. William Tong, D-Stamford, who’s exploring a run for state attorney general.

“We’re only strong when we all have a voice,” columnist, author, and activist Susan Campbell said in her speech.

Echoing Campbell’s call for inclusion, McCarthy Vahey said she wanted marchers to be aware that many women who have to work on Saturdays to feed their kids did not have the same privilege to join in.

Many women said the community of marchers brought them joy and hope.

“To stand up here and see the physical representation of the spirit and energy of the movement is reassuring for the days we loathe in this country,” said Jacqueline Kozin, a New Haven resident and one of the march organizers.

Closing her speech on a positive note, Boynton said, “We have the power to change the way the world sees women and we have the power to change the world itself.”