Weekend of action: 2018 Seattle Women’s March is only the beginning

It will be difficult to outdo the amazing signs from the 2017 march. Sign makers gathered Sunday at Capitol Hill’s The Riveter co-working space to begin working on this year’s batch

The day after Donald Trump’s inauguration last year, women around the world marched: for each other, for the future, for the flickering hope of a sane world.

The marches were massive, attended by an estimated 2.6 million people around the globe, including your correspondent’s mama. In Washington, D.C., hundreds of thousands of marchers overwhelmed the nation’s capital. In the Emerald City, organizers estimated more than 120,000 marchers stretched from the Central District to the Seattle Center. Last year’s marches set the tone of mainstream “resistance” that has defined political opposition to current ruling party’s agenda. The symbolic import of the march is difficult to overstate.

“The mantra of the Women’s March is that all issues are women’s issues,” says Liz Hunter-Keller, who helped organize last year’s march, “and that nobody’s free until everybody’s free.”

Power to the Polls: Anniversary of the Womxn’s March on Seattle/Seattle Women’s March 2.0 – 2018

The “Unity Principles” shared by Women’s Marches across the country expand on that view, detailing opposition to state violence and environmental degradation and support for civil rights for people who are pregnant, queer, employed, political, immigrants, or disabled. The marches are sometimes titled with nonstandard spellings of “womxn” or “womyn,” in order to repudiate discrimination against trans women by bigoted feminists and to reject the categorization of women as a subset of “mankind.”

In short, lots of women et al marched last year in lots of places for lots of reasons, with lots of feelings. So that’s good. But let’s get practical for a moment: what did last year’s march actually accomplish?

“It accomplished people not only learning how to participate, but how to take next-steps,” says Ali Lee, an organizer for this year’s Women’s March in Seattle. “And that was something new for a lot of people, outside of just voting.”

“It makes a statement to the world,” Hunter-Keller said. “There will be marches and events all weekend long, not just in America but in countries around the world. It shows solidarity. It shows people who are sad or overwhelmed or scared that there are people at least that are willing to come out and stand up for them…It’s always valuable to provide people with nonviolent avenues for protest and for showing up en masse to voice displeasure or fear or anger, to really make a statement about the direction the country is taking.”

When planning for this year’s anniversary march, she says, “We did a lot of listening about what last year’s march was–and what it wasn’t.” As a result, Hunter-Keller and other organizers decided that instead of an anniversary march this year, they’re organizing a “Day of Action” on Sunday, January 21, at nine “hubs” in the Seattle area, including Bellevue and Sammamish, for a total of about 100 events.

Each hub has five to ten events planned, she says. For example, the Neighborhood Action Coalition will lead a training on Sunday on organizing nonviolent direct actions (aka civil disobedience) to address questions like “How can you make the most impact with the least negative blowback?” and  “How can you know what your rights are when you’re doing a direct action?” says Hunter-Keller.

2018 Womxn Act on Seattle Hubs

But as excited as organizers and communities are about the Day of Action, “we also recognized about a month in on planning this that people are also going to want to march,” says Hunter-Keller. “And we totally respect that.” So they passed the mantle of organizing the march to the Be the Change network. The anti-Trump movement Indivisible will also be helping. Indivisible called march organizers in October, Hunter-Keller says, and said, “Whatever you do, we’re doing.”

The result: a bifurcated “weekend of the women” on January 20 and 21. “March on Saturday, act on Sunday,” says Hunter-Keller.

“We’re marching as parents, grandparents, brothers and sisters,” says Lee. “We are all in this together. For us to move forward in life, we need to ensure that everyone has equity.”

Officials unsure how many thousands to expect on Capitol Hill as plan for 2018 Seattle Women’s March comes together

Of course, the march and day of action are hopefully only an introduction to deeper political work. “It’s also a way to meet people that will continue doing the work that you want to do,” Hunter-Keller said. “You would not believe how standing in a muddy field for four hours [at a direct action that stemmed from last year’s march] and not going anywhere makes you become very good friends with your standing neighbor.”

But it’s not just friendship that blooms in the mud and muck of marching, says Lee, but also an “understanding of what it means to come together as a community, standing shoulder to shoulder.”

“The coming year will be a combination of protest and direct action, as we did last year,” Hunter-Keller said. “We’re going to have major focus on voter registration and getting deep into marginalized communities.”

Getting out the vote is not just a strategic necessity; for Hunter-Keller, it’s personal. “The same year as the Women’s March, we had our election for mayor, and a just under 50% turnout,” she said. In other words, more than half of registered Seattle voters decided that the fate of the city wasn’t worth the five minutes and a postage stamp. “It’s discouraging to see 135,000 people in the streets, and know that many of those people did not then vote… It will be my life’s mission to make sure that percentage goes up,” she says, “because it is absolutely essential that we win elections in November.”

Yet while voting may be essential, it’s not sufficient. People need to be “taking action,” says Lee, “as opposed to the standard looking at the ballots…and just voting that day.”

Learn more about Saturday’s march here. Learn more about Sunday’s gatherings and actions at seattlewomxnmarchingforward.org.

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