Showing Solidarity: Why We March
Photos by Emily Cordonier
“Love trumps hate” was the message echoing through Ottawa’s downtown core Saturday morning as thousands of people took a stand for women’s rights. I arrived along with my husband and two kids at the Ottawa Human Rights Monument, and I was immediately moved by how many people had shown up. Protesters had even bussed in from surrounding communities for this moment, a chance to take to the streets and promote equality for all people. Women, men, children, and seniors all coming together to show solidarity with our American neighbours who were at that same moment preparing to march on Washington.
One of my friends remarked, “who would have guessed this many people would be affected?” But of course, we are all affected and we are seeking a voice. The recent U.S. election has left many of us feeling silenced. The hate-inciting, xenophobic, and misogynistic rhetoric that permeated Donald Trump’s campaign now becomes so much more than just talk, as Trump takes office and begins to set his own policies. For me, waking up the morning after Trump’s victory left me with a sense of disbelief, a feeling that this can’t actually be happening. But it has happened, Donald Trump is the president of the United States.
So, now we protest.
We are not protesting the fact that Trump now sits in the White House, instead we are standing up against the kind of divisive rhetoric that has incited so many of his followers.
The organization of the Women’s March began as an organic and grassroots movement on Facebook, spurred by one grandma’s post following the American election. The effort was spearheaded by a need to tell the incoming administration that women’s rights are human rights. The movement caught on like wildfire, culminating in marches planned for major cities all over the world.
Here in Ottawa, it was amazing to be a part of such a positive and peaceful movement. Signs with a myriad of messages waved in the air, and knit “pussy hats” adorned many heads as we marched together down Laurier from Elgin to Bronson. It was incredibly inspiring to hear the symphony of cheering, clapping and car honks (the happy kind) all along the route. I was moved to tears as I saw the hair stylists at one salon, along with their clients (with dye jobs half-finished), step out of their business to cheer on their support of the marchers.
This was the first time I have ever marched for anything, and it was a wonderful thing to be a part of. One hopes a message has been sent and received. In Canada, we are not immune to the type of politics and rhetoric that have taken hold down south. Let this be our wake-up call. Discrimination against women, and violations of women’s rights will not be tolerated. There is no country that has yet achieved gender equality. It is something we must keep working towards, and we must speak up when someone is pushing us in the wrong direction.
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The US election campaign was bitter and divisive, with much bullying, racist, anti-minority and anti-woman talk. That sets a tone, a trend that tries to make that kind of talk legitimate, and that can lead to repressive policies, legislation and actions against anyone who is different or who disagrees. The truth is that our society built is on mutual respect, trust and teamwork. We embrace diversity. We celebrate our differences. We gain strength from those differences. We must continue to stand for those values and do what we can in our home, in our workplace and in public to foster inclusiveness and mutual respect. I applaud Emily and every person who stood up for all of us and our values yesterday. Together we have been handed a great opportunity to reaffirm our core values. Let us rise to this challenge together.