Thousands of protestors donning bright pink hats and scarves braved sub-freezing temperatures to converge on Boston Commons Saturday for the Boston Women’s March – turning out alongside hundreds of other “sister” marches across the country.
March Forward Massachusetts, a progressive nonprofit organization that mobilized the original Boston Women’s March in January 2017, coordinated this year’s event. Congresswoman Ayanna S. Pressley, who recently became the first African-American woman to represent Massachusetts, served as honorary chair of the march’s steering committee and delivered the keynote speech at the event.
Espousing the slogan “Until All Voices are Heard”, the 2019 Boston Women’s March centered on inclusivity of a broad range of identities and perspectives. Organizers declared a commitment to “an intersectional feminist framework,” and pledged to support “human rights, civil rights, religious freedom, racial justice, economic justice, reproductive justice, climate justice, and workers’ rights to form a union” in a statement on the event’s website.
Speakers included leaders from Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts, American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People’s Boston branch, the Jewish Alliance for Law and Social Impact, and other groups.
Attendees raised colorful signs reading “Defend Roe v. Wade,” “A Woman’s Place is in the House and the Senate,” and “#TimesUp,” among other messages that criticized climate change, the government shutdown, and a border wall.
A group of counter-protesters including nationalists were also present at the march and carried signs reading “Build the Wall,” “Pro-Life,” and “Resist Marxism.” They were cordoned off from the crowd by a police presence.
Mahtowin Munro from the United American Indians of New England gave the opening speech, in which she denounced the current administration’s treatment of incoming refugees at the Southern border.
“Today, I want to express solidarity with our refugee relatives from Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador and other countries, because they, too, are indigenous,” Munro said. “Right now, these refugees are bearing the brunt of colonial border violence.”
Speakers throughout the event referenced progressive legislative and electoral victories from the November 2018 election.
Alexandra Chandler, whose 2018 campaign marked her the first openly transgender candidate in Massachusetts to run for Congress, touted the recent passage of Massachusetts ballot Question 3, which preserved transgender rights in the state.
“We won because it wasn’t just trans people showing up for trans people,” she said. “It was non-trans people of color, the immigrant community, and women of every identity who talked to their friends and knocked on doors for us — because we are all in this together.”
Pressley, in the keynote speech, said collective activism was responsible for tangible progress, as manifested in the election of record-breaking numbers of women to Congress in 2018.
“While our names might appear on the ballot, behind those names are whole tribes, communities, villages, coalitions, movements of women and allies who embody, who actualize a bold mandate for change and we are just getting started!” she said.
This year’s Boston Women’s March proceeded amidst controversy following some National Women’s March leaders’ refusal to condemn anti-Semitic remarks. The Boston Women’s March, however, is run independently and is not associated with the national movement.
Cindy A. Rowe ’86, executive director of the Jewish Alliance for Law and Social Action, said the leaders of March Forward Massachusetts reached out to her to join the march’s steering committee in an effort to ensure the event was inclusive of all identities – including the Jewish community.
“It was very important for the Boston March organizers to make sure that people understood that our march was going to be totally inclusive and that we’re going to stand in opposition to anti-Semitism,” said Rowe, who also spoke at the event.
Though some students are still away from campus on winter break, others were able to attend the event. Members of the Harvard Kennedy School student group Women in Power Professional Interest Council organized a group of graduate students to attend the march.
Attendee Michaela R. Gaziano, a Kennedy School student, said she was attracted to the event because of its potential to bring people together.
“Women kind of just come from all over the city and all over the state and all that day everyone knows each other,” she said. “For those who go, it’s a very powerful movement – and why not do it with people who you go to school with?”
—Staff Writer Katelyn X. Li can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter at @KatelynLi2.