Thousands march statewide in support of women’s rights far into the future

Participants in the Women’s March in Ketchikan on Jan. 21, 2017. (Photo courtesy of Leila Kheiry/KRBD.)

On Jan. 21, Alaskans held local Women’s Marches across the state from Adak to Barrow to Homer to Ketchikan. An estimated 10,000 people participated statewide — far more than expected. For most, attending the march was an opportunity to stand up for women’s rights, indigenous rights, environmental protection and other social issues, but it was only the first step.

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About 2,000 people marched in Fairbanks on Jan. 21, 2017. The pink sign reads “Sexism isn’t tolerated” in Russian. (Frank/KUAC)

People braved blizzards, negative temperatures and strong winds to attend the marches statewide. Events were organized around the world initially in response to the negative rhetoric of President Donald Trump’s campaign and potential threats to the rights of women, immigrants, people of faith, people of color and many others.

In the far north, about 100 people marched in -23 degree weather in Nome. Dozens turned out despite similar temperatures in Utqiaġvik, where some residents say the march was arranged last minute. Ten turned out in Adak in the far western Aleutians. Nine hundred in Homer on the Kenai Peninsula.

In Haines in southeast Alaska, organizers expected 25 people to show up for the march but instead 150 participated. One of them was Haines High School teacher Patty Brown, who said she’ll continue the spirit of the march by helping her students learn to educate themselves.

Marchers in Haines on Jan. 21, 2017. (Photo by Abbey Collins/KHNS.)

Brown said she would “try to fill my students with interest in knowing facts and how to find them, and how to research them on their own. Do original science.”

Marcy Ugstad was in a crowd of about 220 people in Ketchikan. She said for her, the march was about standing together for everyone’s rights, no matter what their opinions.

Ugstad said the best way to continue forward is to get involved with the community. “Help out when you can. Volunteer when you can. Even if you only have an hour a week or two hours a week. There are so many local programs that need assistance. Be a part. Be engaged. Be an American.”

In Sitka, Sitka Conservation Society director Andrew Thoms participated in the march and a direct action fair along with 700 others. He was there gathering signatures to protect public lands.

“Commercial fisherman are going back to Washington to advocate for federal lands and our salmon and fisheries resources,” Thoms said. “We’re going to send them back with a list of people who support keeping Tongass National Forest lands intact.”

Marchers in Talkeetna gather in front of the Fairview Inn on Jan. 21, 2017. (Manning/KTNA)

Some of the estimated 3,500 marchers in Anchorage echoed Thoms’ ideas and encouraged people to write to their elected leaders with their thoughts and concerns.

Anchorage resident Whitney Flores said she’ll continue the spirit of the march by trying “to be a good policy writer.”

“That’s my plan,” Flores said. “To be able to bridge the gap between science and policy so that way we can have good policy that benefits everybody.”

Up the road in Talkeetna, where about 80 people participated, Sarah Kehoe said she plans to use compassion to help people protect their rights and stay safe.

“I think it’s important still to speak out and express a different opinion and to stand up, particularly stand up, for those that don’t have privilege,” Kehoe said. “I understand that I’m white and I’m privileged, and I want to make sure that I go up to someone who is being bullied and I stand by them and say ‘I’m here with you, and I’m going to be with you until you’re safe.'”

Marchers in Kodiak. (Photo courtesy of Pam Foreman/KMXT)

Sarah Harrington, one of the organizer’s of Kodiak’s 330-person march, echoed the ideas of supporting one another as a community.

“We really wanted to bring everyone together and find commonalities,” Harrington said. “So have a way to unite people but have people feel supported with some of the concerns they have right now. So we’re definitely taking a positive stance.”

KHNS’s Abbey Collins in Haines, KRBD’s Leila Kheiry in Ketchikan, KCAW’s Emily Kwong in Sitka, KTNA’s Phillip Manning in Talkeetna and KMXT’s Kayla Desroche in Kodiak all contributed to this story.

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After being told innumerable times that maybe she asked too many questions, Anne Hillman decided to pursue a career in journalism. She's reported from around Alaska since 2007 and briefly worked as a community radio journalism trainer in rural South Sudan. ahillman (at) alaskapublic (dot) org | 907.550.8447  |  About Anne