'We are here, and we are here to stay': Scenes from the Women's March for Arkansas (updated) | Arkansas Blog

Saturday, January 21, 2017

'We are here, and we are here to stay': Scenes from the Women's March for Arkansas (updated)

Posted By , and on Sat, Jan 21, 2017 at 8:06 PM

click to enlarge BRIAN CHILSON
  • BRIAN CHILSON

Thousands* of protesters marched to the state Capitol this morning in the Women's March for Arkansas. Leslie Peacock, Benji Hardy and Brian Chilson are on the scene and will have more later.

Update: We've added about 100 pictures to Brian Chilson's slideshow, at the bottom of this post.

Update from Leslie: I have just settled down from today's amazing demonstration of women and men fed up with growing right-wing forces to make women second class citizens, denigrate people of color, destroy public education and define America as a country first for white Christians.

I was a participant today rather than a reporter. I didn't take notes. But I can tell you that City Director Capi Peck today shamed Trump's inaugural claim that American public education is terrible and we're a nation of idiots. That Tippi McCullough talked about her firing from Mount St. Mary Academy 10 minutes after she was married to her life partner and how that turned her into an activist, with the help of the Democratic Party. That Crystal Mercer, a Clinton School of Public Service student and daughter of famed civil rights lawyer Christopher Mercer, was a dynamite emcee, asking, "What does democracy look like?" and getting the crowd — Brian Chilson, our photographer, estimated it at 5,000 minimum — to loudly chant the response, "This is what democracy looks like."

Sofia Said was a terrific speaker, talking about her patriotism that the Right questions, including not to have her hijab ripped from her head as happened to women in North Carolina. "I am a woman. I am an Asian. I am an immigrant. I am a Muslim. ... And I am much more than that, because I am a proud American," Said said. A country that treats Muslims and others with intolerance, she added, is "not the America I know, that I adopted, that I came to 22 years ago."

click to enlarge 16195519_10158117709420072_8614268048695493840_n.jpg

Update from Benji, 7:50 p.m.:
Today's march was the largest crowd I've personally seen turn out for any demonstration at the Arkansas Capitol — perhaps for any protest anywhere in the state. When I first arrived (around 11:15 a.m.), people spilled down the steps in front of the statehouse, across Woodlane Street, and down several blocks of Capitol Avenue. As the rally got underway, the crowd continued streaming up Capitol Ave and splayed out to fill almost the whole of the great lawn in front of the building.

Shelle Stormoe, the logistics chairperson for the march, told me afterwards that the march's organizers estimated turnout at more than 7,000, based on visual counts and online registrations. (Others I spoke with said that number seemed on the high end, based on visuals, but there were unquestionably several thousand people in attendance.)

Organizers lined up a diverse panel of speakers, including Rep. Vivian Flowers (D-Pine Bluff), Little Rock City Directors Kathy Webb and Capi Peck, Mireya Reith and Ana Aguayo of the Arkansas United Community Coalition, community organizer Sofia Said and many more. The rally was emceed by local artist and activist Crystal Mercer, who at the end of the event asked the crowd to join her in taking a pledge that mirrored the oath of office President Donald Trump spoke yesterday in Washington, D.C.

"He swore that he was going to protect, preserve and defend the Constitution, and that oath gives him the power to affect the lives of millions. So today, I will make my own oath," Mercer said.  "Please join me in making this personal commitment to preserve, protect and defend our constitutional, civil and human rights. So, if you choose to, please raise your right hand and repeat after me." Thousands of women and men raised their hands and their voices to join Mercer: "I do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute my role as an American, and I will, to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."

"We are here, and we are here to stay," she told the crowd, which roared back an assent.

click to enlarge CRYSTAL MERCER: The event's emcee. - BRIAN CHILSON
  • BRIAN CHILSON
  • CRYSTAL MERCER: The event's emcee.

Stormoe said the organizers were as surprised by the massive turnout as anyone else. "We were not expecting this number. ... Last night, about 9 p.., we had about 5,000 registered. Over the last week, it went from about 2,500 to that number." She said the word spread mostly through a Facebook event page. "We just shared it relentlessly, and it kind of developed organically on its own through that. We did have a press release … but for the most part it was a social media phenomenon." People registered for the event from cities and towns all across the state, she said, and some from Louisiana and Mississippi.

It's worth emphasizing that the organizing for this event did not originate with any previously existent political party, nonprofit or advocacy organization. "We were a group of people who did not even know each other before we started working on this," Stormoe said. "We literally started on Nov. 12 — [march organizer] Gwen [Combs] posted something to Facebook, I happened to see the share, and we got started."

What now, I asked?

"Our mission is to educate people about how they can take action in their community," she replied. "We’ve decided to start a 501(c)3 specifically for the purpose of educating people. We don’t know exactly what’s happening next, but I do know that we are going to start working really hard on that mission." Combs and others have been in close contact with national organizers these last weeks, Stormoe said. "We believe it will continue. We don’t know what form that’s going to take, but we do think there’s a national movement that is happening."

The organizers have a website here.

*A previous version of this post said hundreds of protesters were in attendance; in fact, the number was in the thousands.


Tags: , , ,


Favorite

Comments (32)

Showing 1-32 of 32

Add a comment

 
Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-32 of 32

Add a comment

More by Benjamin Hardy

  • Little Rock mayoral candidates square off in forum

    If Frank Scott's candidacy speaks to the hope of bridging racial divides, Baker Kurrus' message of centrist unity seems intended to appeal to those weary of partisan conflict. Sabin, meanwhile, hopes to capitalize on the big turnout among progressives expected this cycle.
    • Oct 16, 2018
  • Update: Arkansas's work requirement drops another 4,100 from Medicaid in October

    Combined with coverage losses in September, the state has now dropped 8,500 Medicaid recipients from the rolls due to the work requirement.
    • Oct 15, 2018
  • Contrasts between LR mayoral candidates emerge at forum on homelessness

    Kurrus and Sabin both spoke in generalities about the need for city government to better systematize the delivery of services for people experiencing homelessness. But they diverged on a few key issues, including public transportation and the question of providing services to people living in camps. (Frank Scott wasn't present.)
    • Oct 11, 2018
  • More »

More by Lindsey Millar

  • The Greedy on Issue 1 Edition

    Max and Lindsey talk about the nixing of Issue 1 from ballots, the removal of another 4,000 from Medicaid rolls because of a new work requirement rule and new reporting on Little Rock police abuse and bad behavior.
    • Oct 19, 2018
  • The Get Ready to Vote (And Show IDs) Edition

    Max and Lindsey talk about the week of political debates, the state Supreme Court’s ruling on key ballot initiatives, Little Rock Mayor Mark Stodola’s impending big payday and judicial matters.
    • Oct 12, 2018
  • R&B Cook-off winners

    Check out Times photographer Brian Chilson's shots and video from Sunday's R&B Cook-Off, our event in downtown North Little Rock to support the Argenta Downtown Council.
    • Oct 8, 2018
  • More »

More by Leslie Newell Peacock

  • Marjorie Williams-Smith solo show opens Friday at Hearne

    Hearne Fine Art will open the exhibition "The Messengers: A Survey of Work in Metalpoint by Marjorie Williams-Smith," the artist's first solo show at the gallery at 1001 Wright Ave., with a reception from 5-8 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 19.  Williams-Smith, one of the finest metalpoint artists in the country and one of our own, will give a talk about her work at 2 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 20, at Hearne.
    • Oct 18, 2018
  • Brooke Miller comes to The Joint

    And more!
    • Oct 18, 2018
  • Marijuana dispensary scores could be ready by mid- to late November, commission told

    Public Consulting Group, the company hired by the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Commission to evaluate dispensary applications, said it will try to provide results to the commission within the 30 days agreed after receipt of the applications — by mid-November or late November at the latest.
    • Oct 16, 2018
  • More »

Readers also liked…

  • Free Zinn book for Arkansas teachers

    Arkansas teachers! Get your free Howard Zinn book here! Whether Kim Hendren likes it or not.
    • Mar 3, 2017
  • ADEQ denies C&H Hog Farm permit

    The Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality has denied a new permit for the C&H Hog Farms' concentrated animal feeding operation near Mount Judea (Newton County). This is a big and somewhat surprising victory for critics who have viewed C&H's large-scale pig farm and the pig waste it generates as an existential threat to the Buffalo National River.
    • Jan 10, 2018
  • Payday lenders on the march at legislature

    Payday lenders are working hard to get legislative cover for the reintroduction of their usurious loan business to Arkansas. Some are fighting back.
    • Mar 10, 2017

Slideshows

  • Arkansas vs Ole Miss at War Memorial stadium in Little Rock, Saturday, Oct. 13, 2018. After leading for much of the game, Arkansas lost 37-33 when Ole Miss scored the game winning Touchdown with less that 2 minutes left. 
  • Margaret Clark Adventure Park
    New sculptures, preschoolers play area dedicated in Riverfront Park in Little Rock.

Most Recent Comments

 

© 2018 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation