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‘One year later … and we’re still here.’

Thousands of protesters gather in downtown Austin to join nationwide protest of Trump, call for women's rights

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Photo by Bella Russo.

Photo by Bella Russo.

Photo by Bella Russo.

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Ask Glinda Tansey to describe herself, and in no uncertain terms, she’ll tell you that she’s a “pissed-off grandma.” What could have made this local grandmother so angry?

“I’m pissed off about immigration policies especially,” Tansey said. “What they’ve done [to] the ‘Dreamers,’ I could just go on and on and on about all the stupid misunderstandings that they’re causing about human beings; we need a safe place.”

Tansey was one of thousands of protesters In Austin and in other cities all across the country on Saturday, men, women and children gathered to rally against President Donald Trump, whose inauguration occurred exactly one year ago to the day of the march. Marchers also observed the anniversary of the Women’s March, perhaps the largest single-day protest in U.S. history last year, on which women marched for their rights under the Trump administration on the day after his inauguration.

“I feel like our country is really being turned in the wrong direction,” said Frankie Schrader, a protestor. “I’m in favor of a lot of things that our current administration does not support. I support the ‘Dreamers’, I support women and their rights and I support the CHIP program. There are all kinds of things that he’s doing to our country that just aren’t American.”

PRESENT TENSE: Marchers surround a group of pro-Trump supporters during a tense moment at today’s Trump Impeachment Rally outside Austin City Hall. The rally took place today to observe the one-year anniversary of President Trump’s inauguration. “[Trump’s] performance has been abysmal,” said Joy, a local Austin Democrat. “His idea of our country is twisted and we cannot allow it.” The counterprotesters expressed a different view of the president’s first year in office. “I’m out here for my brothers,” said Collin, a counter-protester at the rally. “I don’t feel like we’ve been fairly represented. I support freedom of speech, but I do hope more people can understand us.” Photo by Kien Johnson-Dye.

The full day of protests kicked off with the Impeachment Rally at 10 a.m. at Austin City Hall with speakers who shared personal stories about how legislation under Trump has influenced their lives and what citizens could do to create the change they wanted to see in the White House. The marchers were greeted by a smaller group of Trump supporters who interacted with the larger group without significant confrontation. One protester was arrested for removing a Trump supporters hat.

The crowd began the march to the Capitol up Congress Avenue following a group called the Texas Handmaidens, women clad in red robes to emulate the characters in Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. After the procession reached the Capitol, the event concluded with the annual Roe v. Wade Rally at the Capitol. Many of the protesters marched to voice opposition to the Trump administration’s treatment of women and people of color over the past year.

“There’s so much against him, and there’s so much that’s so hateful and so wrong in the cesspool of administration,” marcher Marla Teodoro said, “I wanted to say that there’s so much stuff wrong in that White House.”

The speakers at the event included politicians working in the Texas Senate and House to pass bills protecting women’s right to abortion. Donna Howard, D-Austin, a member of the Texas House of Representatives, spoke to address policy about women’s health she feels needs to change.

Keynote speaker and state Rep. Donna Howard, D-Austin. Photo by Madison Olsen.

“Right now we’re one of only two states that … have young people that do not have access to contraceptives and unfortunately find themselves in a position where they have an unplanned pregnancy and then have no resources to deal with that,” Howard said. “It’s a vicious cycle. I’m continuing to work on our efforts to have medically accurate information to women who come in for abortions. … There’s going to be a lot of resistance and efforts to erode that access unfortunately, but we’re going to be ready and prepared to do whatever it takes.”

Howard’s also taking action in the House to address the issue of sexual harassment, brought to the forefront of the media’s attention because of the #MeToo movement.

“I’ve been working on our sexual harassment here at the Capitol, and we have a long way to go,” she said. “We’re not Hollywood, but we have a culture that includes, unfortunately, the same kind of power differential, and these inappropriate behaviors, especially to young women who work here. We have a responsibility to make sure this is a safe environment. It’s complicated because when you’re an elected official, you don’t have a boss, so we’re going to have to work through what can we do to ensure to the public that we are going to take care of this.”

Howard also has shifted focus towards the problem of sexual harassment in the public school system. According to the American Association of University Women, nearly half of students surveyed experienced some form of sexual harassment during their middle and high school years.

“Next session, my staff is putting together information now about the problem of sexual assault in our K-12 system,” Howard said. “I think most of us have focused on our teacher or adult on student issues, when in fact I’ve found from my preliminary research that it’s seven times greater that it’s student on student assaults. It’s astounding to me to know that this is right under our noses, and we need to be seriously addressing this and figure out what we need to do to create a safe environment there as well.”

Former state senator and gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis. Photo by Madison Olsen.

Another speaker, Wendy Davis, became a prominent political figure among Texas Democrats in 2013 after her 11-hour filibuster against Senate Bill 5, which passed about a month later and significantly reduced access to abortion across the state.

“We’ve been through a really tough year, and I know a lot of people are feeling simultaneously hopeful and discouraged about some of the things that have happened, and I hope to inspire in the folks who are here who are listening today the understanding that we have to be resilient in the face of challenge, and that so long as we don’t give up, we will see the change that we all hope to see,” Davis said. “By continuing to speak up, and by educating people about the fact that reproductive rights form a very integral part of women being able to realize our best potential.”

Davis also founded the nonprofit organization Deeds Not Words, an organization of self-proclaimed change makers aimed at improving the lives of women through action.

“It’s centered around the idea that, while it’s important for us to talk about things that matter to us, it’s also important for us to commit ourselves to action,” Davis said. “Deeds Not Words is specifically focused on young women like you to help give you a path to use your action in a productive and powerful way.”

Davis ran for governor against Greg Abbott in 2014 and served in the Texas Senate from 2009 to 2015. However, Davis also disclosed to The Shield that she, in fact, will be running for office again in the future.

A TEACHABLE MOMENT: English teacher Nikki Northcutt and her sister, Fulmore Middle School magnet program director Leigh Northcutt-Benson, prepare the join the marchers assembled for today’s #WomensMarch and #ImpeachmentRally in downtown Austin. The event coincides with the year anniversary of Trump’s inauguration. “I’m just horrified with the direction of the country,” Northcutt said, “and being here helps me feel like I’m doing something about it. I am so impressed with the turnout and the repeated support for immigrants, dreamers, Muslims, women, minorities and LBGTQ from all of the speakers.” Photo by Madison Olsen.

“I hope to run for office again one day, and I don’t know when that will be, but I want to make sure that I demonstrate for young women and not-so-young women that when we lose, when we get knocked down, it’s important to stand back up and keep fighting,” Davis said.

Andrea Hughes, who organized the Texas Handmaid’s March and subsequent rally at the Capitol, also spoke to her personal experiences.

“I got my start in women’s rights activism in 2013 at the unruly mob during the Wendy Davis filibuster,” Hughes said. “I ended up spending an entire month at the Capitol… I was literally here eight to 10 hours a day, sometimes 12, listening to testimony. I can safely say I’ve heard both sides in abundance and length, and my position is still the same. My position is that abortion care is healthcare, and we have the fundamental right to privacy in the decision.”

Hughes says that students who wish to get involved in the fight for women’s rights can show support for the movement by protesting legislation, sharing personal testimonies, registering to vote at 18 (and actually voting) and contacting their representatives.

“I think that there’s a very common misconception that you have to be some special person to be heard, but I walked into the Capitol basically a nobody, and here I am, in charge,” Hughes said. “I [believe] that diversity and personal stories are strength. That is what empowered the unruly mob and connected it and made that wave of passion rise up and brought all these people together, the personal stories and the emotional connection to those stories that humanized the issue. It’s a lot harder to when it’s your friend, your neighbor, your family member or your co-worker rather than some abstract scary stranger. Much in the same sense I feel like if we keep telling these stories and presenting a diverse set of viewpoints that we can create a more intersectional, interconnected, stronger reproductive rights movement in Texas.”

Protestor Lisa Hernandez, who attended the Impeachment Rally and the Roe v. Wade Rally, expressed her strong support of both rallies’ causes.

“It’s important when women’s rights are being chipped away,” Hernandez said. “It’s important our lives are at stake right now.”

Another protester, who identified herself as Lisa, took part in the march and rally to exercise her First Amendment rights in the hopes of making a difference.

“If you don’t [march], then history’s gonna pass you by,” she said. “This is our chance to be productive and to contribute. People take for granted the freedom that we have to affect change and affect policy and to be heard. We need to get out there and use the freedom that we have.”

FIGHT FOR THE RIGHT: While thousands assembled downtown for today’s Impeachment Rally, there was also a smaller group of Trump supporters who came downtown to stage a counterprotest. A counter protester, who said her name was Gina Williams spoke in conciliatory terms. “We may not always agree politically, but we can find a middle ground,” she said. “I think at the end of the day that’s what’s important. Austin is pretty amazing. I’ve met some really great people not just on our side of course but on both sides as well, and I hope that this is a step forward in the right direction.” She also said there was plenty of blame to go around in Washington. “ To be completely honest with you I think they failed us on both sides of the aisle. But, when we get out here, when we have these interactions, we’re able to meet people and bridge the gaps and open the door to communication, and maybe find a common ground. We can understand that it’s not about government, and it’s not about political views, it’s about us coming together as Texans, and as neighbors to take care of each other, and take care of our people first.”Photo by Madison Olsen.

The Impeachment Rally featured several speakers who discussed immigration, the rights of people of color and possible outcomes for Robert Mueller, head of the ongoing investigation into alleged electoral ties to Russia in the 2016 presidential election. The Resistance Choir of South Central Texas performed songs to open the rally; their rendition of the “The Star Spangled Banner,” which included a fifth verse added during the height of the Civil War, spoke to the rally’s overall message of fighting against oppression and discrimination.

According to Todd Cary, the rhetoric the president has used over the past year struck close to the hearts of many of the protestors.

“I support women’s rights,” Cary said. “And our president is basically a moron who doesn’t know how to lead, doesn’t have any morals, doesn’t care about anybody but himself, doesn’t care about the everyday American. Most importantly, this is a country built on immigrants, and the way he discriminates against immigrants and minorities is wrong, and I’m very much against it. We’re going to start in 2018 by voting out some of his Senators and Congressmen.”

The topic of immigration was at the forefront of the Rally, with the issue of funding for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals being brought to national attention after the government shutdown. The immigration policy DACA allows children, known as “Dreamers,” who entered the country illegally as minors eligible to receive a renewable two-year period of deferred action– rather than deportation– and a work permit. The DACA policy was rescinded by the Trump administration last September via executive action, but the recession of the policy was delayed six months to allow Congress to devise a solution for the population DACA no longer protects.

Protesters at City Hall were met with a heavy police presence and a small force of counter-protesters, some holding Trump flags and megaphones. Many of the counter-protesters actively engaged in discussions with the marchers, wanting to hear some arguments from the opposing side.

“We may not always agree politically, but we can find a middle ground,” one counter-protester who identified herself as Gina Williams said. “I think at the end of the day that’s what’s important. Being here for each other and with each other and getting to know these people on both sides of the fight. When we get out here and have these interactions, we’re able to meet people and bridge the gaps and open the door to communication and maybe find a common ground. If we don’t open up the door to conversation, then history’s doomed to repeat itself.”

For some counter-protesters, the rally served as a way to hear opinions on the Trump administration from opposite ends of the political spectrum. James Everard, a Trump supporter and gun rights activist, came to the rally to engage in a dialogue with the protestors.

“I’m out here just because I want to see what the other side has to say,” Everard said. “Sometimes they bring up some valid points. I like to have a political view from both sides, me being a middle-of-the-road kind of guy. I just like to get perspective; I find the best way to have a good neutral idea of what’s going on is to listen to neutral, conservative, and liberal sides so I can form the best opinion I possibly can.”

Another counter-protester, Robert Young, shared Williams’s and Everard’s motivations for attending the rally.
“You watch the news and it will tell you about what people who have different views than you think, and it’s not always accurate,” Young said. “I’d rather hear from actual real people because that’s the only way you can find out that you may have more in common than you think. If all we ever do is yell at each other, we’re going to be doing this 30 years from now. You got to come down and find out what you can do together, then you can actually improve situations.”

THE HANDMAID’S MARCH: Protesters called the Texas Handmaids lead the Impeachment Rally procession from City Hall to the Capitol. Photo by Emma Baumgardner.

Even though motivations behind the counter-protest were, for the most part, to create a channel for open dialogue, there was still conflict at the Inauguration rally. At the beginning of the rally, a woman who said her name was Vicky Williams ran through the crowd with a Trump flag and had it almost forcibly taken from her by a protester. Then Jon Colgin, a counter-protester wearing a ‘Make America Great Again’ hat, ran across the stage blaring an air horn. A protester, later identified as Alexei Wood, came running towards him, took the hat from his head, and ran in the opposite direction. Wood was chased into the crowd by the Trump supporter, and both were detailed shortly after the incident. According to the San Antonio Current, Colgin was originally detained in handcuffs, but was later released without charges. Wood was arrested on the charge of theft.

“I have fellow patriots that are out here,” said a Trump supporter who would only share his first name, Colin. “There have been times when they have been violently attacked, so [I’m here] to stand with them, even if we’re outnumbered. I don’t feel like we’ve been fairly represented. I support freedom of speech, but I do hope more people can understand us.”

The rally ran until noon, followed by the Texas Handmaid’s procession. Women, dressed in red robes and white bonnets, led the protesters in a march down Congress to the Capitol. The clothes the Handmaidens wore were a direct allusion to the book “A Handmaid’s Tale,” which was popularized by the [year] TV adaptation [on network]. These red robes and white bonnets have become a symbol for the Women’s Rights Movement.
The Resistance Choir marched among the procession, sheet music in hand, performing the song “Quiet” by MILCK. The song was popularized during the Women’s March that took place in Washington last year.

Sarah and Tula Richardson said they came downtown Saturday to honor the memory of last year’s march, calling it a pivotal moment in their lives. “One year later,” one of them said, “and we’re still here.”

Thousands of people followed behind the Handmaidens as they marched to the Capitol. One of the McCallum students that attended the rally, senior Ruby Dietz, volunteered at the Planned Parenthood booth during the first few hours of the rally.

Planned Parenthood volunteer Ruby Dietz.

“I’ve been a volunteer with Planned Parenthood for a year now,” Dietz said. “When you volunteer [for] something that you love, you never stop learning about it, and you never stop growing more and more passionate. At first, I started volunteering really just because I was so frustrated with the amount of people I’d met who didn’t understand what Planned Parenthood is really about. I fight for women’s reproductive rights to set those straight. I just want people to be aware that Planned Parenthood is doing actual good.”

At the Capitol, booths from various organizations shared information on how to get involved in the Women’s Rights Movement, and women spoke on the steps of the Capitol to galvanize the crowd.

Photos by Emma Baumgardner, Zoe Hutchens, Gregory James, Kien Johnson-Dye, Erica Moomaw, Madison Olsen, Kirsten Pacotti and Bella Russo. 

3 Comments

3 Responses to “‘One year later … and we’re still here.’”

  1. gracie ross on February 6th, 2018 11:54 am

    The photos are amazing! This article is so empowering and it’s good to see people are still fighting to support those without a voice a year after Trump became President.

    [Reply]

  2. Sarah Slaten on March 8th, 2018 11:06 am

    I love how this tells the story of so many different people marching for so many different reasons. It’s really touching, and it gives a sense of perspective.

    [Reply]

  3. Olivia Navarro on March 29th, 2018 1:13 am

    I loved this article so much ! The photos are so powerful and I loved all the interviews and viewpoints this included.

    [Reply]

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