Locals turn out in force to Montpelier, D.C. marches for women

By Cynthia Prairie
©2017 Telegraph Publishing LLC

The march begins. Click a photo to launch gallery. Photos by Cynthia Prairie

Saturday Jan. 21, 2017 was a day of surprises for many attending the Women’s March on Montpelier, just one small portion of a world-wide protest that began as a suggestion on Facebook after the election of Donald Trump to the presidency in November.

Organizers and participants said that Trump’s remarks before and during the campaign disparaging women and minorities brought together women and men from across the country and from a wide spectrum of causes.

Katherine Henry, left, and Christine Fugate.

The event was planned as a march on Washington, D.C., but with many unable to make the long trip to the nation’s capital, where Trump was inaugurated president the day before, similar events were set up in state capitals and cities across the United States and in other countries, according to the Washington Post, including France, England, Germany, Japan and Australia.

By Monday there were estimates that upwards of 3 million people attended protests worldwide with 450,000 in D.C.

In Montpelier, the first surprise Vermonters encountered was the sheer number of cars that clogged Interstate I-89 from north and south, backing up in either direction for miles as protesters descended on the state capital and delayed the full march by almost an hour. The Vermont State Police issued a statement on Saturday that the on and off ramps for I-89 were closed and Montpelier Police said “city roads cannot support any more people or vehicles.”

Kim and Alan Farrar.

Vermont Senator, Bernie Sanders, was the second surprise of the day. The much loved firebrand and former candidate for president had attended Trump’s inauguration the day before and was not listed on the roster of speakers.  But his appearance roused the crowd. Sanders said, “Mr. Trump, you will not divide us by gender, by race, by who we love. In fact, your bigotry will bring us together … He claims to be for the working man, but on the dais (at the inauguration) were billionaire, after billionaire, after billionaire.” And with emphasis on each word he said, “Donald  — Trump — is — a — fraud.”

Below is a short clip of his speech.

The final surprise came hours after the crowds had dispersed, when various estimates put the crowd size between 10,000 and 20,000. It was originally anticipated that 5,000 would attend based on the number of responses on Facebook. This was a large gathering for a state of only 620,000 residents.

Julie Kelley and her mother, Brenda Dansingburg march together promoting strength through diversity in all its forms.

Katherine Henry, a Chester resident, attended the Montpelier protest with a friend from Chicago, Christine Fugate. Henry said she had wanted to go to D.C. But found it logistically difficult. “So, if I couldn’t go to D.C., I’d march in Vermont to support my fellow Vermonters,” she said.

“I’m not represented in the executive branch, and I’m barely represented in the legislative branch and I clearly won’t be represented in the judicial branch,” said Henry, adding, “This gives a voice to the voiceless.”

Liz Bammarito and Mary Anne Butler of Cavendish accompanied their friend Peter, who was carrying a pro-environment sign mounted on a mop head. Bammarito said she was focused on reproductive rights and civil rights “for everyone. You have to embraces differences.”

Julie Kelley and her mother Brenda Dansingburg were all smiles as they marched with a small group of fellow Chester residents. Kelley said she is concerned with medical care and coverage. “We live in developed country with the resources at our disposal. Health care is a basic human right.  … providing health care for all is a moral obligation.” She added that she was also concerned about  “the attempt to divide … this country based on race, religion and sexual orientation to name just a few.  From the very beginning of the history of this country, we have been a multi-cultural society.”

Patty Nader, top left, in lavendar cap, next to Wendy Svec, with sign.

Kim Farrar was accompanied by her husband Alan. Kim Farrar said, “We want President Trump to know that we are united as women. I have a transgender child who is now 29 years old. It’s really concerning that the White House took down the LGBTQ section of its website.”

She added, “Obama was a gentleman and Trump is not. This whole pink hat movement speaks to Trump and his comments about women and their privates. I have three daughters and three granddaughters and I am worried about their futures.”

Patty Nader, a Chester business-owner, said, “I believe I have a right to choose what to do with my own body. I don’t think anyone else has the right to dictate that.”

Following the event, Marilyn Mahusky, an attorney who lives in Chester who attended the march with her daughter and friends, called the march “empowering.” In an email she wrote, “It was inspiring to be in a sea of pink – women and men of all ages, shapes, sizes, colors and creeds; able-bodied and disabled.  For the first time since November, I feel hopeful.”

Ludlow resident Sharon Combs Farr wrote on Facebook following the march, “It took my breath away and brought a tear to my eye when I came around the corner with the marchers and saw the number of people on the State House lawn.”

Back row from left: Aedan Coger. Domenica Coger and Christiane Valentin.
Front row from left: Margi Fineran, Miranda Ryan, Felicity Ryan, Isabella Scanlan, Sophia Scanlan and Lea Pero.
Photo by Robert Ryan

A number of families did make the trip from southern Vermont to the nation’s capital. Domenica Coger and her daughter Aedan of Chester met up with family and friends in the D.C. area to go to the march.

Afterward, Coger, Aedan, her nieces Lea Pero, Isabella and Sophia Scanlan and sister-in-law Christiane Valentin emailed that they all had similar reasons for attending.

“To be around those with like minds, to stand, walk, and cheer to protect the rights of women, minorities, immigrants, LGBTQIA+, BLM (Black Lives Matter) and those with disabilities, to address real issues of climate change and health care.”

They said they hoped to “be reassured that despite the negativity that has entered the country and the White House … we can still find unity, comfort, peace, and support with those around us.

“Our favorite moment,” they wrote, was “a sign that said ‘44>45’ (referring to President Obama as the 44th president; Trump as the 45th) as well as seeing sign after sign of hilarious quotes taken from things said by Trump,” including the sea of pink pussy hats that one of his unsavory quotes inspired.

Below is a photo gallery of scenes at the Montpelier march.


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About the Author: Cynthia Prairie has been a newspaper editor more than 40 years. Cynthia has worked at such publications as the Raleigh Times, the Baltimore News American, the Buffalo Courier Express, the Chicago Sun-Times and the Patuxent Publishing chain of community newspapers in Maryland, and has won numerous state awards for her reporting. As an editor, she has overseen her staffs to win many awards for indepth coverage. She and her family moved to Chester, Vermont in 2004.

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  1. Cynthia Prairie says:

    Hi Penny,

    My apologies for not being clearer. What I wrote was the crowds “delayed the full march by almost an hour.” While marchers at the front kicked off on time, hundreds of marchers who were in line snaking back around the school were standing still or moving by inches until 1:49 p.m., when the jam let lose and everyone was then able to file downtown and around the State House. I was within that group for about 30 minutes until things moved.

  2. Cynthia, I was also at the march, and I beg to differ on one point in your story: the march was not delayed by an hour. In fact (and I do not mean alternative fact).

    I was impressed when it started exactly on time at 1 p.m. It lasted longer than expected, however, because so many people showed up. Consequently, the speeches were delayed a little, but less than half an hour. It’s heartening to find that so many others from Chester were there, but the only other one I actually saw in that big crowd was Jane Davis.