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Women’s March

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The corner of Route 112 and Route 347 in Port Jeff Station has hosted enough protests that those who have come out every year to demonstrate have dubbed it an unofficial name, “resistance corner.”

On Jan. 19 members of that resistance came out for the 7th Annual Long Island Rising V-Day Flashmob and the 2019 Long Island Women’s March Rally and protested for hours despite the impending cold. Holding signs representing a smorgasbord of progressive talking points, from women’s reproductive rights to ending the current government shutdown, many of those who attended said while the U.S. House of Representatives and New York State Senate turning blue are good changes, major change needs to come from the White House.

“Today we celebrate the women’s wave that stormed the face of the government, and we come out here to show the world in solidarity against a misogynist right wing agenda to demand change,” said Port Jefferson resident and protest organizer Kathy Greene Lahey.

“We come out here to show the world in solidarity against a misogynist right wing agenda to demand change.”

— Kathy Greene Lahey

Lahey works for Long Island Rising, a progressive advocacy group that has helped organize the three Port Jeff protests as well as several others across the Island. The group also collected women’s health products to be distributed to those in need. The protest was held in conjunction with two other women’s marches in Manhattan.

In 2017, after the inauguration of President Donald Trump (R), thousands upon thousands went to Washington, D.C., to protest the 45th president’s inauguration with many other smaller protests popping up all across the country. Since then, the protests have been exasperated by controversy over alleged anti-Semitism among one of the Women’s March original national leaders. The original Port Jeff Station protest in 2017, held in conjunction with the national Women’s March movement, drew a crowd of several thousand. The protest has dwindled to a few hundred this year, yet many of those who came out to protest were as adamant as ever.

Some dressed up for the event. Rachel Cara wore the red shawl and headpiece from the web television series “The Handmaid’s Tale.”

“I’m really upset about the treatment of women, minorities and the LGBT community,” Cara said. “Especially recently with the separation of families, Christine Blasey Ford’s testimonies [about then U.S. Supreme Court candidate Brett Kavanaugh] and how she was ignored by Congress.”

Lisa Jackson and her 15-year-old daughter Gloriana attended the protest. Gloriana, who’s in a wheelchair, held a sign that read, “I March to the streets ‘cause I’m willing and I’m able …’”

“It’s a very, very crazy administration, and we can’t have him anymore in our White House,” Jackson said. “We can’t have this divisiveness and separation and misogyny that’s rampant. She should be growing up where her rights are as equal as everyone else’s.”

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Watch out, Madison Avenue! People everywhere are gunning for your jobs.

Well, maybe people don’t want advertising and marketing jobs, but they do want to express themselves in ways guaranteed by the Constitution. How could the Founding Fathers have known that the war with words, on words and of words would require an ability of people on both sides to understand that each of them has a right to speak?

The Women’s March, the day after the inauguration, was a spectacle. People from around the nation, indeed the world, took considerable time to write, design and share signs about any and every issue important to them.

People are searching for the words to share their convictions.

One sign read, “Without Hermione, Harry would have died,” referring to the brilliant friend of Harry Potter whose smarts helped Harry survive despite numerous murderous attempts by Voldemort.

Another sign suggested, “So bad, even introverts are here.”

The president’s hair, a subject for television discussion well before the commander in chief left for the White House, made it onto several signs, with “We shall overcomb,” offering one of many toupee moments.

Whether the Trump administration recognizes or addresses it, we are a nation divided and, no, that’s not a statement about the size of the crowd at the inauguration. Who cares? If not a single person attended the inauguration, do you know what we would be calling Donald Trump? President.

I understand that and so do all those people writing signs, discussing the future direction of the country and arguing over the internet. I know Trump and his team seem disillusioned with the media. The president can’t stand the way he’s covered, but plenty of past presidents no doubt could relate to his discomfort.

Trump has tried to ostracize the media, going straight to the people with his creatively spelled Twitter messages.

One woman used Trump’s penchant for direct messages with a sign saying, “Tweet women with respect.”

Trump continues to make the argument about the number of people who voted for him. Can someone please tell him he won the election?

By walking side-by-side in marches, people aren’t sitting comfortably at home typing angry computer messages: They’re sharing their views and are traveling to see people “in real life.”

This is not — to borrow from Shakespeare’s “Macbeth” — “a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” These are people sharing a message they hope others and, in particular, the administration, hears and understands.

Trump didn’t get to the White House propelled by the hopes of these sign makers. He won the votes of millions who believed in him.

He wants to make America great again. He and his voters have red hats to prove it. That’s great and maybe the sale of red hats will be sufficient to create more jobs, just as his office has increased the sale of poster boards, crayons, markers and block-lettering kits through these marches.

No doubt, Trump, his team and many other Americans will come up with great slogans and catchy one-liners to offset the marchers’ messages.

What will bring us together? Maybe there’ll be a moment similar to the one in the movie “Miracle,” which was about the improbable Olympics victory by the United States hockey team at Lake Placid in 1980. As these players bonded, they learned that they weren’t playing for their schools but, rather, were representing their country.

The Founding Fathers may have created a slogan that’s hard to top: We the People.

Victoria Espinoza, left, marched with her sister Gabriella in New York City last Saturday. Photo from Victoria Espinoza

This past weekend more than one million people gathered across the world to participate in the Women’s March, a grassroots movement organized by multiple independent coordinators. I am proud to have been one of those million or so.

As diverse as the crowds were at each sister march across the country so were the reasons each person marched. The mission of the Women’s March on Washington, to give its full title, was to stand up and protect the rights of every man, woman and child in the United States.

Their website states the rhetoric of the last election cycle alienated, insulted and demonized many groups including immigrants, Muslims and those of diverse religious faiths, people who identify as LGBTQIA, Native people, people with disabilities, and survivors of sexual assault.

Make no mistake, this is a fact — and no, Kellyanne Conway, in no way is it an alternative fact. President Donald Trump (R) alienated many groups during the campaign season. Speeches and comments targeted Hispanics, the disabled, women and many more. Trump’s own past words serve as verification of this fact with quotes like, “When you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything. Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything.”

So for those asking why marchers felt the need to protest, there should be no confusion: People felt the need to stand up, defend and support each other after the litany of comments made in 2016 and earlier by the president, and for others the promises and administration choices made since. This march was meant to show they are not alone, and we stand by them.

I marched to be an ally, but to also send a message to my government that my political consciousness is alive and well, and I will be watching and reacting to everything the new administration puts forward. This is not simply to make myself feel better when I air my grievances about the state of the country.

In early January, Republican members of Congress voted during a closed-door meeting to place the independent Office of Congressional Ethics under the control of those lawmakers. The proposal would have barred the panel from reviewing any violation of criminal law by members of Congress, and give the House Committee on Ethics the power to stop an investigation at any point. Currently the ethics panel operates as an independent, nonpartisan entity. Although it was served as ethics reform, public outcry condemning the legislation caused lawmakers to pull the bill almost immediately.

The public in this act was informed of the workings of their government, reacted, and was able to turn the tide. This is what the Women’s March represents to me — the beginning of a greater level of awareness.

The day after the march, the organization released their next step in continuing to fight for the rights of all citizens: 10 Actions in 100 Days. Their first action is a letter-writing campaign to senators to keep the conversation going.

Various media reports are saying the Women’s March was the largest march in U.S. history.

Let’s look back at other significant marches. The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in 1963 saw more than 250,000 listen to the words of Martin Luther King Jr., demanding equality. The following year the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed. The first major anti-Vietnam War protest with between 500,000 and 600,00 people was held in 1969. Several more rallies, marches and protests were planned after that and in 1973 America had officially ended its involvement.

Of course these marches are not the sole reason change took place. But they were certainly part of a domino effect.

The People’s Climate Change March in 2014 was the largest climate-change march in history, and although most scientists would agree we still have a long way to go, the Paris Agreement of 2015 marked a historic turning point for dealing with the world’s emission of greenhouse gases.

Anyone who felt inspired and enthused by the marches across the globe last Saturday shouldn’t just sit back to reflect. Continue to be informed and voice opinions, because it matters. Former President Barack Obama (D) said, “If you’re disappointed by your elected officials, grab a clipboard, get some signatures, and run for office yourself,” during his farewell address.

For all the participants, you were a part of one of the largest nonviolent protests in history — with zero arrests in Washington, D.C., and New York City, the marches with the most numbers. Be proud of your involvement, stay informed and do not stop letting your voice be heard.

Victoria Espinoza is the editor of the Times of Huntington and Northport and the Times of Smithtown.

While millions across the globe took part in the Women’s March on Washington and other sister marches Jan. 21, hundreds met on the corner of Route 347 and Route 112 in Port Jefferson Station to make their voices heard.

“The rhetoric of the past election cycle has insulted, demonized and threatened many of us — immigrants of all statuses, Muslims and those of diverse religious faiths, people who identify as LGBTQIA, Native people, Black and Brown people, people with disabilities, survivors of sexual assault — and our communities are hurting and scared,” a website established to organize the marches states in its mission.

Community members who attended the event from across the North Shore reiterated many of those concerns during the march in Port Jeff Station, which according to the site was the only affiliated sister march on Long Island.

“I wanted to say something today to make all of the anxiety, the anger and fear go away, but that’s not going to happen. It shouldn’t happen because times are rough and the current circumstances call for anxiety, anger and fear.”

—Kathy Lahey

“Getting out here in unity and letting our voices be heard is crucial,” Port Jefferson resident Kathy Lahey said over a megaphone to those in attendance. Lahey said she was responsible for organizing the sister march, getting the word out and getting it officially recognized as an affiliate on the website. “We are all in this together. Together we will fight for equality, for fairness and for justice. I wanted to say something today to make all of the anxiety, the anger and fear go away, but that’s not going to happen. It shouldn’t happen because times are rough and the current circumstances call for anxiety, anger and fear.”

Women, men and children of all ages, races and backgrounds were represented at the march. The March on Washington and all of those affiliated were set up intentionally to coincide with President Donald Trump’s (R) inauguration Jan. 20 as a means to combat what they view as his alienating rhetoric during the campaign, and since his election victory, as well as to voice opposition for several policies on his agenda and nominations for his cabinet positions. Health care, equal rights, demanding the release of the President’s tax returns and immigration policy were among the topics most frequently referenced by signs and chants by attendees.

President Trump addressed the worldwide marches through his personal Twitter account.

“Peaceful protests are a hallmark of our democracy. Even if I don’t always agree, I recognize the rights of people to express their views,” he said Jan. 22, though he later added if all present had gone out and vote they may have been heard sooner.

Many in attendance said they weren’t sure what to expect when they decided to attend, but were blown away by the unity and solidarity they felt upon arriving.

“My initial reaction when I pulled up was I burst into tears because I’m sad that we have to be here, but in the end I’m left feeling very empowered because even though the road to progress is a jagged road, in the end love will always win,” Daniela McKee of Setauket said. McKee said she is a teacher, and brought her own kids with her to experience the event. “I think it’s important that they learn from a very early age that they have to fight for what they believe in and for their rights and equality.”

Joyce Edward of Jefferson Ferry, who is in her 90s, shared her reasons for marching.

“We’re going so far back, it’s sad,” she said. “I think it is important and I hope that maybe our congress people will pay attention. I don’t think Mr. Trump will. He pays attention to one person: himself.”

“My initial reaction when I pulled up was I burst into tears because I’m sad that we have to be here, but in the end I’m left feeling very empowered because even though the road to progress is a jagged road.”

—Daniela McKee

Edward added that her deep concern for where the country is headed for her children and grandchildren inspired her to get out and participate.

She questioned if 1st Congressional District U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley), who has been a vocal Trump supporter since he emerged as the likely Republican Presidential candidate, would be an advocate for those unhappy with the President’s beliefs and proposed policies.

“If he’s behind Trump then I’m not behind him,” Jeff Schroeder of Greenport also said of Zeldin. “It scares me that someone so far off from the ideologies of people I know is running our district.”

Zeldin addressed the march in an emailed statement through a spokeswoman.

“2017 presents new opportunities to improve our community, state and nation,” he said. “To move our country forward, unity amongst the American people is the most critical necessity. Ideological differences will always exist, but the pursuit of common ground must be the highest priority. In Congress, I have always been and remain willing to work with absolutely anyone to find common ground on anything wherever and whenever possible.”

New York State Sen. and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D) was among those marching in New York City.

“Thank you to all the New Yorkers, Americans and people in NY, Washington, and all over the world who laced up your shoes today,” he said in an email. “It was only the beginning.”

Several marchers said they were encouraged by the overwhelming support the large crowd provided for them.

“We just need to be heard — the frustration about what’s going on. I have a daughter. I have a wife … it can’t get worse in my mind.”

—Mitchell Riggs

“It’s so heartening that people realize that they can actually be involved in changing things in government,” Sherry Eckstein of Huntington said.

Allyson Matwey of Wading River expressed a similar sentiment.

“I did not know what to expect coming here today, and I’m just in awe that there’s men, women, children — all ages, all everything here today, and it’s amazing,” she said.

Mitchell Riggs of Middle Island attended the march with two of his children, while his wife attended the New York City march.

“We just need to be heard — the frustration about what’s going on,” he said. “I have a daughter. I have a wife … it can’t get worse in my mind.”

While addressing the crowd, Lahey stressed the importance of seeing the march as the beginning of a movement, and not a solitary event.

“President Obama also said at his farewell speech that change only happens when ordinary people get involved, get engaged and come together to demand it,” she said. “And here we are — hundreds, maybe thousands — standing together on a street corner in solidarity, a group of ordinary people getting involved, getting engaged, demanding that our servants do what we hired them to do. … Contact your representatives on a regular basis. … Let them know we are here, we are involved, we are engaged and we are not going away.”