Islanders unite for women's rights

From left, freshman Ava Vigneault and Thea Keene march in Washington D.C. and hold signs among the 470,000 participants in the Women's March on Washington. —Willa Vigneault

By Willa Vigneault and Sophia McCarron

Among the crowds that flooded some of America’s major cities January 21 were dozens of regional high school students and teachers who traveled to the Women’s March on Washington, D.C.

Chants of “This is what democracy looks like” echoed off the sides of buildings in Washington as crowds of pink-hatted marchers united in peaceful demonstration. The Women’s March was so well attended that the protesters burst out of the planned route and filled the surrounding streets heading to the White House the day after the Inauguration, passing by the Trump hotel and brandishing protest signs.

Sophomore Lollie Bezahler attended the Washington march. “I think the march is important because it shows that we won’t back down and we won’t give up. We won’t let people walk over us. Even though this might not help things in the present, it will hopefully fix the future,” she said. “It felt good to be a part of something, knowing you’re causing change, being with people who want what you want. That is what democracy is, and it was great to experience it first hand.”

While not every Martha’s Vineyard student could make it to Washington, many from the Island also attended the marches in cities closer to home, including Nicole Cabot, mother of ninth grader Violet Cabot. Mrs. Cabot, along with her mother and her daughter, represented three generations who marched together in New York City. Mrs. Cabot said, “I wanted to be part of the movement to empower women. We have a voice. We are powerful, non-violent and ready to make sure none of our rights are taken away. This was a historic moment shared with my mother and my daughter.”

People felt solidarity with their fellow marchers, explaining that the event brought complete strangers together. Mrs. Cabot said, “It was an incredibly uplifting feeling to be with 400,000 of my ‘friends.’ People were filled with hope, action, ideas and energy.”

Some people stayed even closer to home and attended the march in Boston, like senior Alison Daigle. She said, “I thought the march was great and very empowering. It was amazing to see that not only women but several men and children who all came together for the march. It was so cool to witness that so many people can come together to support something and do it peacefully.”

For those who could not get off the Island, a demonstration occurred at Five Corners, with an impressive turnout of high school students, island parents, and young people. Senior Bella Chimes who attended the Five Corners demonstration said, “It was an amazing experience. I loved seeing people I knew but also people I didn’t all coming together like that. It felt important and right to be there.”

Senior Lena Hanschka, who also attended the march, agreed. “It was moving to see how many people came to support women–not just in our community, but around the world,” she said.

While marches and demonstrations were scattered all over the world, there was a thematic continuity that linked them together–looking to the future. Title I teacher Nell Cogan attended the Boston march. She said, “I think as a mother of two little ones, I want them to grow up believing in love, in empathy, in each other. That it is important to listen and consider the role each and every one of us has in this world and in our future, and that building walls is building angst and hate and divisiveness.”

Mrs. Cabot said, “Apathy is the downfall of society. Action and realizing that each of us can make a difference is one of the most important jobs we have as parents.” These marches offered an opportunity for parents to speak out for the future that they want for their children and grandchildren.

These protests also helped people speak out about their rights and the rights of others that they feel are in imminent danger. Senior Kate Sudarsky, who attended the D.C. march, said, “The biggest reason [I marched] was to show Trump that we will not stand by quietly while he strips us of basic human rights. We are here and we are not going away.”