The Journal Gazette
Sunday, February 10, 2019 1:00 am

Women's March welcomes all

Attendees address environment, gun, migrant policies

SHERRY SLATER | The Journal Gazette

On the same day that Sen. Elizabeth Warren announced her candidacy for the Democratic presidential nomination, local women and men gathered downtown to show support for women.

And immigrants. And blacks. And gays. And transgender women. And reproductive rights. And the environment. And gun control.

“I think we're making a great deal of effort to be pointedly inclusive,” said Misti Meehan, chairwoman of the Allen County Democratic Party and the event's emcee.

The third annual Women's March drew about 75 people to the Allen County Courthouse Square, where they listened to speakers Saturday before making a short march to the Allen County Public Library. Tables set up at the library allowed volunteers to distribute information about their nonprofit organizations.

Diane Dickson didn't limit herself to one cause in the courthouse square. She held two signs. One read: “Diversity and love make America great.” The other: “The climate is changing. Why can't we?”

“I want people to know that it's important to understand why the policies and actions of the president are wrong,” the Fort Wayne woman said, adding that the Trump administration has rolled back environmental regulations created to protect water, land and air quality.

Dickson explained that her sign referencing “love” was aimed at immigration policies.

“We need diversity in this country,” she said.

Jessica Bunch attended the rally to represent Planned Parenthood Advocates of Indiana and Kentucky. She's a local community organizer for the group.

“Reproductive women's rights are our priority,” she said.

Planned Parenthood closed its Fort Wayne office in July following constant pressure from pro-life advocates. The decision broke Bunch's heart.

“It provided a lot of important health care to men and women in Allen County and the surrounding counties,” she said of the office that didn't provide abortions.

Most of Saturday's crowd was female, between the ages of 20 and 60. But some men attended, and some little girls and older women also participated.

Meehan kicked off the event by acknowledging the historic firsts among women elected to Congress in November.

“We have got to change the legislation that sets all of us up to fail,” she told the crowd.

Sharon Tucker gave a rousing speech, encouraging women to embrace their varied skin and eye colors. The Allen County councilwoman, D-1st, is a candidate for the Fort Wayne City Council.

“I'm here to tell you that you are enough!” Tucker said. “You're enough to make a difference.”

Palermo Galindo, Hispanic and immigrant liaison for the city of Fort Wayne, described himself to the crowd as “the son of a female warrior with only a sixth-grade education.”

Galindo said residents could tap into the same spirit and determination to stand together and make a difference in the community.

He asked those listening to put a hand on the shoulder of someone standing next to them and repeat these words: “I will stand with you. Nothing can stop us.”

Shamanique Hall, who represented local Black Lives Matter advocates, said the movement is broader than it might appear.

“This is about more than just police brutality,” she said. “It is about minorities being treated fairly.”

Réna Bradley, a community advocate, raised the issue of Fort Wayne's lack of access to affordable transportation and its relatively high infant mortality rate in the southeast section of the city.

“That should matter to all of us, should it not?” she asked. “Sisters, I encourage you not to flinch and turn away.”

At least one of the speakers believed temperatures well below freezing played a role in the event's modest turnout.

In 2017, when the gathering was the day after President Donald Trump's inauguration, an estimated 1,000 people crowded the courthouse square.

Meehan, like others throughout the crowd, struggled to stay warm on the cloudy day with temperatures in the lower 20s.

“It's cold out here. We're Hoosiers, but holy moly,” she said afterward, adding that attendance was probably also hurt because the event was originally supposed to be on an even colder day in January.

“You always lose when you reschedule.”

At a glance

Among the sayings on signs displayed during Saturday's Women's March were:

• “Vote! This is not who we are.”

• “If you wanna bake a pie, that's great. If you wanna have a career, that's great, too.”

• “#Black Lives Matter. #BeAware.”

• “We are the women we've been waiting for.”

• “Equal rights for others does not mean less for you. It's not a pie.”

• “Black trans lives matter”

• “Mothers against guns”

• “Time's up”

• “Empowered women empower women”

• “Do what is right, not what is easy.”

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