City News

Hundreds brave cold for third annual Madison Women’s March

Despite below-freezing temperatures, hundreds of marchers turned up on the steps of the Capitol Saturday morning for the third annual Women’s March.  

Despite below-freezing temperatures, hundreds of marchers turned up on the steps of the Capitol Saturday morning for the third annual Women’s March.  

Image By: Téalin Robinson

Several hundred marchers rallied on the steps of the Wisconsin State Capitol Saturday morning for the third annual Women’s March, despite snow and temperatures in the low teens. 

Happening at the same time as other marches in cities across the country, the event in Madison brought only a few hundred protestors, far less than the estimated 100,000 who packed State Street for the original march to protest Donald Trump’s inauguration in 2017.

Though only two years removed from Trump’s inauguration, Women’s March organizers chose to focus on other issues such as the continued attacks on Planned Parenthood and abortion rights, as well as the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. 

However, the event’s speakers still found things to celebrate — in particular the results of the 2018 midterm elections which brought record-breaking numbers of women into Congress.

“Not only do I believe we’ve seen a change, I believe change is going to happen,” Rep. Shelia Stubbs, D-Madison, said. Stubbs became the first African-American woman to be elected to a state office from Dane County when she won in 2018. 

In addition to Stubbs, marchers also heard from speakers on the subjects of women’s health care, reproductive rights and safety. Amy Dean, communications director for Women’s March Wisconsin, spoke about problems with the health care system in dealing with women who are giving birth.

“The United States has the highest rate of maternal mortality of any developed country, and we are one of the only countries in the entire world where that rate is increasing,” she said. “I am more likely to die in childbirth than my mother was. A black woman is three times more likely to die in childbirth than a white woman and it’s worse for Native American women.”

Lorraine Shooter, a Native American activist from the Menominee Indian Reservation in northeastern Wisconsin, spoke about the increased levels of violence felt by women in the Native American community.

“A Native American woman is six times more likely to go missing, be raped … than any other race. Native American women are also more likely to be murdered than any other race,” she said. “The original women of this land have very little justice.”

Shooter said in the past three years, just under 14,000 Native American women and girls have been reported missing, a problem she said police are often unequipped or unwilling to deal with. 

“This is an epidemic that is going on in our homeland that gets almost no media attention,” she said. “The original women of this land have very little justice.”

Though many in the crowd were students, people of all ages showed up in support of women’s rights. 

“Roe v. Wade is in trouble now,” said Marjorie Matthews, a member of the older women’s group, the Raging Grannies. “All the more reason why we really need to be protecting what still is before they take it away.”

In addition to women’s rights, speakers also touched on other progressive issues like immigration and criminal justice reform. 

Rhiannon Plotkin, a 12-year-old whose mother was deported when she was an infant, told the crowd about the struggles of growing up without both of her parents.

“This is not an easy thing for me to talk about, but this is not an easy thing to have to live with,” she said. “I feel like my country does not want me to have the same rights as my friends.”

Rep. Stubbs, a former probation and parole officer, made criminal justice reform a central part of her campaign. 

“I can tell you firsthand what it’s like to place someone in our criminal justice system and I can tell you firsthand what it’s like to watch these families fall apart and be separated,” she said. “We cannot continue to incarcerate black and brown people at the rate that we are in the state of Wisconsin.”

One reason for the lower turnout compared to previous marches may have been the controversy surrounding the leaders of the national Women’s March organization and their support of supposedly anti-Semitic and homophobic causes. In response, the organizers of the Madison march read a statement before the event condemning any form of hate, including anti-Semitism and homophobia. 

Madison School Board candidate Laila Borokhim, who is Jewish, said she had some reservations about speaking but decided to attend anyway.

“I was not going to come here today … but then I remembered that not everything you see on social media is not actually true, so I’m here,” she said.

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