‘It’s about solidarity’: Franklin County residents heading to Women’s Marches on Saturday

  • Penney Hulten, of Greenfield, stands on the Greenfield Common with a sign during the “Women Standing Our Ground Rally” in January 2017. Staff File Photo

  • Attendees of Greenfield’s “Women Standing Our Ground Rally” in January 2017 gather on the Greenfield Common to listen to musical performances and speakers. While no women’s rally or march is planned in Greenfield this year, the Pioneer Valley Women’s March will be held in Springfield on Saturday. Staff File Photo

Staff Writer
Published: 1/15/2020 10:37:42 PM
Modified: 1/15/2020 10:36:51 PM

Editor’s Note: Today, we take a break from our week-long series of profiles of female activists to tell you about a few of the women who will be attending one of the various Women’s Marches on Saturday. Check back Friday and Saturday for more profiles.

GREENFIELD — Some of Franklin County’s residents will band together for equality on Saturday, albeit from different locations.

While some, like Greenfield’s Precinct 6 City Councilor Sheila Gilmour, will find themselves in Springfield for the fourth annual Pioneer Valley Women’s March, which was moved from Northampton, Greenfield resident Sarah Ahern will participate in Washington, D.C. as a de-escalation marshal.

Ahern, who has attended marches in the Pioneer Valley and Boston over the past few years, said she was motivated to take part in the capital’s Women’s March this year because of the treatment of women and overall hatred she’s noticed.

“There was an undercurrent that was all underground until some leaders spoke out, and a lot of people felt emboldened to do the same,” she said. “Even locally, there was a woman assaulted in Greenfield last year with a rock.”

Ahern wants to stand up for others, including those who could not make it to a Women’s March themselves or speak out publicly.

“I wanted to go down to make a statement, for LGBT+ people, for minorities, for everyone,” Ahern said. “Everyone is there to help each other out by standing up for the visibility and safety of women. With the rise of physical and sexual violence, it’s relevant where we’ll be on the route we’re marching.”

One part of Saturday’s event she’s looking forward to in particular is learning how to do a song and dance called “Un violador en tu camino,” translated to “A Rapist in Your Path,” by the Chilean protest group Lastesis.

“The first time I saw the dance it gave me shivers,” Ahern said. “It’s about standing up for ourselves and speaking together in one voice. Democracy is a participatory process. If you don’t participate, how will anything change?”

She also stressed that the marches are open to any and all people.

“People shouldn’t feel excluded,” Ahern said. “It’s about solidarity and saying, ‘Enough is enough.’”

Gilmour, who said she’ll be marching in Springfield with the Western Mass Area Labor Federation Womxn’s Caucus (correct spelling), echoed Ahern’s sentiment.

“It’s about getting people together and not excluding people based on their gender, race or sexuality,” Gilmour said. “It’s a good event to remind each other we’re in this together.”

Gilmour said the recently formed Western Mass Area Labor Federation Womxn’s Caucus advocates for issues that affect people of varying gender identities, including women and non-binary people. She noted issues that are concerning to her fellow caucus members, such as sexual harassment and unequal pay.

“We’re all in the march to talk about these things,” Gilmour said. “It’s tough thinking that we’re taking a step backward for the rights our mothers and grandmothers fought for.”

While it may be an election year, Gilmour said she doesn’t think that makes 2020’s march any different.

“Any opportunity to talk about issues affecting people right now is important,” she said. “We may all have different candidates we’re supporting, but we’re more unified now to get the best candidate in office.”

The Pioneer Valley Women’s March in Springfield will start at 11 a.m. at Northgate Plaza at 1985 Main St. It will end at Springfield City Hall at 38 Court St. According to organizers, this year’s march “will focus on calling for climate action in addition to demanding justice and equality for women and gender-oppressed people.”

Reach Melina Bourdeau at mbourdeau@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 263.


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