ROCK SPRINGS — Around 80 people gathered in downtown Rock Springs on Saturday morning, many holding handmade signs, all bundled up against the brisk weather and ready to walk. They came together to be part of the 2020 Women’s March.
The Rock Springs Women’s March was one of many that took place all across the nation on Saturday. This is the fourth year that marches for women’s rights have been conducted in January, starting with the 2017 Women’s March in Washington, D.C.
The Women’s March official website states, “The mission of Women’s March is to harness the political power of diverse women and their communities to create transformative social change. ... Women’s March is committed to dismantling systems of oppression through nonviolent resistance and building inclusive structures guided by self-determination, dignity and respect.”
The flyer for the Rock Springs march invited “everyone who supports women’s rights in the Equality State” to join. The crowd that turned up was diverse, full of both women and men, young and old, Democrats and Republicans.
Meghan Jensen, the chairwoman of the Sweetwater County Democratic Party, spoke to the crowd at the beginning of the march, thanking everyone for showing up and describing the plan for the march. “Let’s use our voice,” she encouraged. With cheers, the march took off.
The march made its way through downtown, walking along South Main Street, crossing over by Boschetto’s European Market, going up Broadway and then heading to C Street, ending the march at the Rock Springs Library. A few cars driving through downtown stopped to let the marchers make their way across intersections. Some drivers going past honked in support.
Marchers chatted pleasantly with one another as they stepped carefully over the snow and ice. Some discussed the political issues that brought them there. Some spent time catching up with friends. A few times throughout the march, participants joined in chants and cheers. “Who’s here?” one marcher yelled. “I am!” those around her responded. Another time she asked a series of questions, such as “Why are we here?” and “Who has the vote?” The answer came back — “Women!”
Handmade signs held high by marchers carried a variety of messages. Most focused on women and women’s rights, whether encouraging people to vote, urging respect for women, or sharing quotes such as “Here’s to strong women. May we know them, may we be them, may we raise them.” Some men brought signs, including one that said “This guy is not afraid of feminists.” Some signs touched on other issues, including immigration, climate change and the Black Lives Matter movement.
The march ended at the Rock Springs Library, where everyone gathered in one of the downstairs meeting rooms to warm up, drink hot chocolate and eat snacks provided by Eve Piza of Eve’s Restaurant.
After everyone had a chance to eat and chat, several individuals gave informal speeches to the gathered audience. Jensen again thanked everyone for coming and thanked those who’d helped organize the march, including Barbara Smith and Julie Smith. She then introduced each speaker, which included Joyce Corcoran, State Rep. John Freeman, Dr. Banu Symington and Joe Barbuto.
Joyce Corcoran, former mayor of Lander and a Rock Springs councilwoman, spoke about her hopes and fears relating to the current state of our country, particularly regarding women’s rights. She shared that other towns in Wyoming also held women’s marches, including Cody, Casper, Cheyenne, Lander and Pinedale. She noted that women still don’t have equal rights and face many difficulties, and she spoke about the importance of the Equal Rights Amendment.
“I’m so thrilled to see the men here,” Corcoran said. “That’s how we’ll win, by working together.” She added “I wish we had some Republicans here.” A man in the crowd responded, “You do!” This met with applause from others in the audience, and the man added that he has many of the same goals as the others there.
Corcoran ended by reading portions of a speech by Martin Luther King Jr. entitled “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence.”
“We must move past indecision to action,” the speech says.
Freeman, a Democratic member of the Wyoming House of Representatives, shared personal stories of the strong women in his family. He told about his wife’s grandmother, who stole coins out of her abusive husband’s pockets until she’d saved enough to buy train tickets to Hanna, Wyoming, for herself and her children. Other family members went through similar situations.
“Women are strong,” Freeman said. “Women have to be strong because the deck is against them.”
Dr. Symington from Memorial Hospital of Sweetwater County shared her personal reasons for marching. She noted that she participated in the first Women’s March in 2017 in Boise, Idaho. Before the march took place, she overheard a female coworker comment — “We have everything we need, why does she need to march?” Symington noted that she does not march because she wants to replace men or steal a men’s jobs, but because she wants to be treated equally. She has seen firsthand in the medical community how men are paid more than women for doing the same work.
She said that she marches “to support the rights” of her female friends so they can have “the same opportunities for advancement.” She said that Wyoming, as the equality state, should be taking the lead in these issues.
Barbuto, state chair of the Democratic party, said that at first he was hesitant to speak at the march because he wanted to let women have the floor, but he felt that he should speak to honor the “powerful, inspirational women” in his life who helped him get to where he is. He shared how he was looking through an old purse owned by his great-grandmother when he found three pins — one for the Royal Neighbor Society, which helped women buy their own insurance; one for the retail clerks union, a worker’s union his grandmother belonged to; and one supporting Franklin Delano Roosevelt for president.
Barbuto said he believes his great-grandmother would be disgusted and ashamed at the state of the country today. But he said that one silver lining of the struggles we still face is that people are inspired to be more involved.
After everyone was done speaking, Jensen opened the floor and asked if anyone else wanted to share any comments. Kenilynn Zanetti stood and and noted that “we have been a divisive country,” but in general “most of us as Americans agree on most things.” She noted how important it is for us to talk through issues and listen to one another when we have different opinions.
“We are all people,” Zanetti said, and listening to one another can help us avoid an “us vs. them” mentality.
As the event wrapped up, some people stayed to chat longer while others began heading out. Carnations were handed out to the marchers as they left. People walked back to the parking lot on B Street in small clusters, still holding their signs.
Trina Brittain, who attended the march, said she appreciated how peaceful, positive, and uplifting it was. She later shared on social media that she wasn’t sure she would participate in the march until the night before, but she’d decided to go because she knows what it’s like to feel powerless.
She said: “I marched today to let women, especially young women know that it’s not hopeless! ... We are valuable, strong, capable and powerful!”