MONTPELIER — Despite facing single-digit temperatures, hundreds of people turned out to support women, people of color and other groups while also protesting President Donald Trump.
Women’s March Vermont held a rally Saturday at the State House where people held up signs saying things like “Keep your laws off my body” and “When injustice becomes law, resistance becomes duty.”
Amanda Garces is a member of the Vermont Coalition for Ethnic and Social Equity in Schools. She is also an immigrant from Colombia.
She said she was at the rally to talk about a 14-year-old girl who was crossing the Arizona border with Mexico when she died.
“It took three weeks for her remains to be found,” Garces said. “I am standing here for her and for the 7,000 migrants that have died crossing the border.”
Parts of the U.S. government are currently shut down over a dispute between Trump and Democrats in Congress over funding for a border wall between the U.S. and Mexico. Garces said she was also at Saturday’s rally because she is afraid that people may not have noticed the people who have died crossing the desert to get to the U.S. She said people may also not have noticed that parts of the border already have a wall and border patrol is destroying humanitarian aid for immigrants.
“I am afraid that you have not noticed that white supremacy walks around us,” she said.
But she said she remembers she can’t be afraid because there is a resistance to these things. She said every day people fight back against injustice and to save lives.
Melody Walker Brook, a member of the Abenaki tribe, said violence against indigenous women is at epidemic levels.
“And in this post-me too world, don’t forget about the original woman and what is being done to her on a daily basis,” Walker Brook said.
She said people often talk about historical trauma woven into people’s DNA, but she wasn’t going to play the victim Saturday. She said she has so much strength pumping into her which is much more powerful than sorrow.
“Though I will not let sorrow feed me, I will never tune out injustice,” she said.
Caroline Whiddon is the co-founder of the Me2 Orchestra in Vermont with a mission of erasing the stigma surrounding mental illness and addiction. Whiddon said studies show as many as one in four people will experience a mental illness in their lifetime.
“So I’m able to look out at all of you today and I know that many of you had to fight the effects of trauma, addiction, depression or anxiety just to get out of bed and be here. I want you to know that I appreciate your effort. I really do. I may not know exactly who you are, but I see you,” she told the crowd at Saturday’s rally.
Whiddon said she’s been diagnosed with depression and anxiety. She said those suffering from mental illness are never alone because there are many people feeling the same way they do.
She said mental illness is not a character flaw, and people she knows that live with mental illness and addiction are some of strongest people on the planet.
“And yet they often keep their illnesses secret because of the stigma and the discrimination that remain prevalent in our communities. Now being a woman with a mental illness or substance use disorder can mean living in secrecy. There’s long been a societal expectation that women not inconvenience anyone for long with our feelings of pain,” she said. “We’ve internalized the messages that we should be independent and self-reliant and we’re supposed to keep our houses in order. Heaven forbid we express our pain and risk being called emotional or hysterical. Trying to be everything to everyone while dealing with the stigma of mental illness and addiction puts a soul-crushing weight on us. And if you’re a woman of color or if you represent another marginalized community, that weight is even heavier and the stigma runs deeper.”
The lineup of speakers on Saturday also included: former state representative Kiah Morris, of Bennington, an African-American who previously resigned her elected post due to racially motivated harassment of her and her family; Beverly Little Thunder, of the Standing Rock Lakotas, expressing the views of Native Americans; and black liberation and environmental justice advocate Freweyni Adugnia.