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Sunday, February 28, 2021

“A mile of people” find solidarity at the Womxn’s March in Bellingham

By Asia Fields

The streets surrounding City Hall were packed with an estimated 10,000 people attending the Womxn’s March in Bellingham, Saturday, Jan. 21. The march was in coordination with others happening around the world. Participants showed up to voice their concerns over Donald Trump’s presidency in numbers that astounded organizers.

“When we first started, we didn’t expect this,” said Colleen Haggerty, one of the march’s organizers. “We were thinking that 500 to 1,000 [people] would be great.”

The Bellingham march organizers decided to change the word “Women” to “Womxn” to be

Photo by Alex Powell
Photo by Alex Powell

inclusive.

Only one of the organizers had experience with events of this size, but they took on the task of planning a local march, Haggerty said.

“I  felt so helpless and hopeless, I initially said no,” Haggerty said. “But then I thought, if I say no, then what am I telling my children? What am I telling myself?”

Najla Mohamed-Lamin, a Whatcom Community College student from Western Sahara, was one of the thousands of protesters.

She attended the march with her host family. The three young girls in the family wore hijabs in solidarity with Mohamed-Lamin, who is Muslim.

“The girls wanted to support Najla because we love her and wanted to make her feel like it’s okay to be in her traditional dress here,” Corrie Hodge, their mother, said. “We all wanted to show her our support.”  

Mohamed-Lamin said the march was a matter of supporting human rights and standing together, along with showing love and promoting solidarity among one another.

Freshman James Bonaci, an education major, also attended the march.

“Everybody loves Trump. Many people in Bellingham who love Trump are afraid to say so because they’re afraid to get beaten up by these rabid liberals that you see here.”

Eric Bostrom

“Although I may be a white male, I still want to support the cause,” Bonaci said. “There are a lot of other people that might not be comfortable to stand up. I feel it’s really important to show solidarity and support.”

Though Bonaci wasn’t marching for himself, his reason for participating was still personal.

“I have a three-year-old sister. The fact that she’s going to be starting off her life with these types of things on TV  is a really big bummer,” Bonaci said. “I want to at least show there are people that are showing her respect, and there are still people who are at least somewhat decent.”

Photo by Rachel Postlewait
Photo by Rachel Postlewait

Jeremy Pressman, professor at the University of Connecticut, and Erica Chenoweth, professor at the University of Denver, are working to estimate how many protesters attended the marches.

Their current data estimates between 3.3 and 4.6 million people participated across the country, with additional marches around the world.

Several participants felt they would be personally impacted by the new administration. Junior  Rowan Day, a biology major, expressed concern for the fate of her family.

“I’m a woman, I’m a rape survivor and my family is very mixed race,” Day said. “We are Hispanic-Americans. I have cousins who are black, and I care about my little sisters and little cousins very much. I want to come out and support them and everybody who is being threatened by Trump.”

Eric Bostrom, a local preacher who can occasionally be seen in Red Square, was a Trump supporter in attendance.

“Everybody loves Trump,” Bostrom said. “Many people in Bellingham who love Trump are afraid to say so because they’re afraid to get beaten up by these rabid liberals that you see here.”

Bostrum’s claim that everybody loves Trump was met with loud opposition from the surrounding march participants, including statements regarding the popular vote, which favored Hillary Clinton.

Some Western students were not present at the local march because they were protesting in different parts of the country.  

Forest Machala, a former Western student, was another Trump supporter who showed up to the event.womensmarch3

“I wanted to see what the other side is doing,” Machala said.

Machala said he usually tries to listen to different perspectives, but at the end of the day, he doesn’t care what other people think.

“They may hate me, they may love me, but they’re my opinions,” Machala said.

For Jen VanderWeyden, a Western employee and mother of three, activism is a family tradition. She attended the march with her mother, wife and children.

“We have daughters, and as two married women, we feel it is very important to get our children involved in political dialogue,” VanderWeyden said. “We’re all female in our family. And this is a moment to step forward and make a statement,” VanderWeyden said.

Resilience in the face of the Trump Administration was widely called for, as marchers felt a sense of injustice.

“When people are affected by their environment, if there’s fracking it’s always the low income families that are affected,” said sophomore Selah Royer, an East Asian studies major. “It’s really unfair that this billionaire is making decisions for these people.”

Photo by Harrison Amelang
Photo by Harrison Amelang

Royer is one of many students who plans on being politically active throughout the Trump presidency.

“I want to show that I’m not going to take this lying down. I’m not just going to roll over and show my belly. The things he said are not okay,” Royer said.

Many participants look toward the future. Royer believes the Trump presidency will be looked back in a way similar to how we regard internment and Jim Crow laws.

“This is one of those things that we’ll look back on and regret in the future,” Royer said. “I don’t want to tell my children in the future, my grandchildren, that I just let it happen.”

While marchers often expressed outrage and concern, many found solace in the action taken at the Womxn’s March.

“I have been so disheartened since the election, but this morning I had a feel sort of like when Hillary gave her speech on the stage at the Democratic Convention,” said Dorothy Smith, owner of Allegro Strings, who watched the march while perched on a nearby wall.

Despite the divisiveness to be found in politics today, Smith believes there is much to look forward to.

“There is hope that this horridness is just the antithesis of all the beautiful work we’ve done the last eight years. To move forward, we have to swing back, unfortunately. But I guess that’s to help us understand how great we can be,” Smith said.

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