Lee students and faculty respond to women’s marches

Lee students and faculty respond to women’s marches

Protestors march on Market Street Bridge in Chattanooga, Tennessee on Saturday, Jan. 21.

Photo by Kimberly Sebring

One day after President Donald Trump's inauguration, millions of people participated in women’s marches across the country on Saturday, Jan. 21.

In a flurry of signs, chanting and marching, demonstrators took to the streets, while others refused to participate for various reasons.

Anna DuPree, a senior English education student at Lee University, attended the Chattanooga march because she felt it was important to voice her opinion to the government.

“A lot of the rhetoric that has been used over the past year and a half of campaigning and the election and everything has been really degrading to women,” DuPree said. “I felt that it was really important to voice that I wasn’t ok with that. It’s essential to democracy that we let the government know what we need as a people.”

DuPree said she also marched for minorities, refugees and immigrant women.

“I think the biggest part that impacted me was I don’t think that anybody was there just for themselves,” DuPree said. “I think everybody was there for somebody else, everybody was there to support each other.”

Many people also had their own reasons for not attending the marches. Katelyn Clark, a sophomore nursing student, refused to march because she thinks more attention should be turned toward revitalizing the church.

“I am not marching because the problem isn't the ground we walk on, but the church we attend on Sunday,” Clark said. “We have told women that in order to share the gospel she must seek approval from her husband. We have made her feel shameful for her body and we have made her feel isolated with sexual sin, labeling it as a male sin. The real change is when we march into the church and refuse to be stagnant anymore.”

Clark also feels that people should work towards eliminating division in the church and live out its mission while “fully addressing” uncomfortable situations.

Though the marches drew large crowds of women, many men also stood beside them. Spencer Smith, a senior anthropology student, initially went to the Chattanooga march with his fiancée out of curiosity, but ended up participating.

A protestor demonstrates her support for women's rights on Market Street Bridge in Chattanooga on Saturday, Jan. 21.

Photo by Kimberly Sebring

“Women’s rights and immigrants and minorities – those were some things that prompted me to go, but I just went and I thought it’d be cool,” Smith said. “I think it’s always just important to promote love and peace…I can’t speak for other marches but I think at least the Chattanooga one was very peaceful.”

Smith said he also tried to connect faith with his experience seeing different people with various ideas, backgrounds and religions at the march.

“I was really wrestling with the idea of would Jesus be there? Like would he be at this march or would he not, and I can honestly say I don’t know,” Smith said. “I didn’t know if he would be there, because I think he’d be doing something greater.”

The Chattanooga march featured speaker Ash-Lee Henderson, a member of Concerned Citizens for Justice, who helped lead the protestors out from Coolidge Park and across Market Street Bridge.

Henderson believes that the protest should be the first step in fighting oppression in Cattanooga and beyond.

“I hope what people take from this march, locally, is a sense of accountability to the people that were here. We didn’t win anything just because we came and marched together, other than building relationships, which is a victory,” Henderson said. “But that’s not gonna get us through the next four years – that’s gonna require us to fight back to dismantle the systems of oppression that impact us, and it’s gonna require us to build the kind of world that we deserve and want to live in, so the work starts now.”

Senior intercultural studies major Shabanna Osborne, the daughter of an immigrant, did not hear about the marches until Sunday, Jan. 22, but she was not upset about missing the opportunity to attend.

“As a Christian woman, I do not think it would be beneficial for me to participate in these marches,” Osborne said. “I don't think the Trump Administration is evil, and I think these political issues are way more complicated than most people can comprehend.”

Protestors cross Market Street Bridge in Chattanooga during a women's march on Saturday, Jan. 21.

Photo by Kimberly Sebring

Osborne said some of the legitimate voices were “lost in the madness” of “extremists” that she has seen more commonly on social media.

She claims she has seen more people “making fools of themselves than getting their point across," and that Americans should remember how privileged they are.

“I've been blessed to travel, and see what other countries really deal with, and I just know that Americans are lucky with the benefits that we do have,” Osborne said. “Sure, we can use improvement. However, I think the term American privilege describes what I believe is happening right now, because regardless of race and gender, approximately 80 percent of the world lives on less than $10 a day, with millions living on even less than that.”

Some members of the Lee community also encountered marchers outside the Chattanooga area.

Senior nursing major Elizabeth Brooks was in Washington, D.C. for the inauguration, where she said she witnessed some disruptive protestors in the city on Saturday.

“They were everywhere,” Brooks said. “I thought it was disrespectful that they were also at the Lincoln Memorial and the Vietnam Memorial and it was just kinda getting out of hand.”

On the west coast, Dr. Carolyn Dirksen, director of faculty development, said she saw a peaceful march take place in San Diego, California. Her husband and daughter also attended marches in Chattanooga and Washington, D.C., respectively.

“My daughter, my husband and I all agreed that the mass of humanity that participated in the various marches had a variety of causes that they felt were threatened by the new administration: immigration, human rights, women’s rights, environmental protection, etc.,” Dirksen said. “I think peaceful demonstrations are a profoundly good idea and are one of the basic rights of our democracy. We have the right of peaceful assembly, and that right is to be cherished.”

Although not all the protestors agreed on the issues presented, Dirksen said that she and her family witnessed “great respect and camaraderie” among marchers in different states.

“There were even some pro-Trump marchers who were there as a counter protest. They were not excluded and were given a voice,” Dirksen said. “We all saw marchers with pro-life t-shirts and signs, and none of us saw them being harassed or discriminated against.”

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