#WomensMarch the Netherlands 2.0

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(Photo credit: MamaCash)

This weekend, around 20,000 people gathered in Amsterdam, the capital of the Netherlands, for a second Women’s March this year, this time specifically directed at Dutch politics. With the much-anticipated (for better or worse) parliamentary elections in The Netherlands only a few days away (15 March), it was a moment for many to show their support for the world-wide movement calling for equality, inclusivity, and tolerance, raising their voices against the rise of right-wing populism fuelled by fear and hatred all over Europe and elsewhere in the world. People from all ages, genders, and backgrounds marched together from Damplein to Museumplein in a sea of orange and other colours in a spirit of comradery. Beyond a call for inclusivity and equality for all in all aspects of life, the March was also an attempt to underscore the importance of the upcoming elections, and the power we have as citizens to change the negative tide that seems to be washing over Europe. Now more than ever it is our responsibility to change these dynamics and vote against hate.

This Women’s March on Amsterdam followed in the footsteps of the Women’s March on Washington on 21 January 2017, the largest protest in US history. Hundreds of Sister Marches were organised around the world, with an estimated total number of 5 million people marching. Amsterdam’s Sister March in January drew approximately 3,000 people to the Museumplein. This time again, there were many incredibly creative signs, some specifically directed at Dutch politics, in particular Geert Wilders and his so-called Party for Freedom, others referencing broader messages of equality and justice. Like at the Women’s March on Washington, a group of women also performed MILCK’s powerful song I Can’t Keep Quiet along the route.

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(Photo credit: Women’s March Netherlands)

Speakers and performers before and after the March included Marjan Sax – long-time feminist advocate and founder of several feminist organisations, transactivist VreerDevika Partiman – founder of StemOpEenVrouw, Petra Benach – main organiser of the Women’s March Netherlands, and spoken word artist Babs Gons, with Anousha Nzume as MC. What I appreciated in particular was not just the broad demographic participating – from grandparents to grandchildren and everything in between – but equally the attempts made by the March organisers, as with the Women’s March on Washington, regarding inclusivity. Repeatedly calls were made during the various speeches to remember and honour those who could not, for whatever reason, join the march (such as the undocumented for fear of being arrested), and particular attention was given to those with disabilities, including an interpreter for the deaf on stage.

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(Photo credit: MamaCash)

But the March aimed at more than raising our voices for justice and equality for all. It was a call to action to the citizens of the Netherlands to vote with their conscience on Wednesday. To vote against hate and for greater diversity, because as one of the signs said “Diversity is our Strength”.

White men have dominated Dutch politics for far too long, and this problematic reality hit us again during the Party Leaders Debate on 12 March, with the party leaders of the eight biggest parties leading the polls (minus Geert Wilders of the Partij voor de Vrijheid (‘Party for Freedom’) who declined, as per usual, to participate in this debate). Of these eight parties, only one is headed by a woman (Marianne Thieme of the Partij voor de Dieren, ‘Party for the Animals’). During the 12 March debate, as the only female partly leader, she was asked “Of your fellow party-leaders, who do you think is cutest?” It was the most important televised political debate this year. Of course this question wasn’t posed to her male colleagues. Sexism to the fore, yet again! And are we surprised? Of all 28 parties participating in the elections, only three are headed by women, and two have no woman on their list at all (the one-member party Vrije Democratische Partij, not currently represented in Parliament, and the Staatkundig Gereformeerde Partij, with currently 3 seats in Parliament). At the moment, only 57 of 150 Dutch Parliamentarians (38%) is female, and if we are to believe the polls, it seems likely that this number will only go down rather than up after the Wednesday elections.

To increase the number of women in politics, a new initiative has emerged called “Stem Op Een Vrouw” (Vote For A Woman). Perhaps symbolically, 2017 also marks 100 years since women in The Netherlands gained the right to be elected to public office (although they didn’t get the right to actually vote in elections until 1922). What would be better than to reach full equality this year? As the Stem Op Een Vrouw initiative explains, a lot of people already (symbolically) vote for the first woman on their preferred party’s list. But what many people don’t realise is that voting for women high up on a party’s electoral list in the Dutch system of proportional representation won’t actually change these numbers. Our votes to the respective party will ensure that women high on the list get into Parliament in any case. Instead, we should use our preferential votes to vote strategically for women lower on a list. Only by voting for women who, without these preferential votes otherwise would not win a seat in Parliament, can we change the gender balance.

But we don’t just need more women in Dutch politics. We need more diversity in every respect. Currently only one Parliamentarian is black. There is only one trans-woman currently on the list of party members hoping to get elected. And the majority of Dutch parliamentarians are culturally “autochthonous” Dutch. This lack of ethnic, gender, cultural and other diversity is not and cannot be representative of Dutch society.

The Women’s March was one of several protests in The Netherlands calling for greater diversity and equal rights regardless of gender, background, ethnicity, nationality, or other status. As I am sure many of my fellow country-women and -men, I will be watching the election results on Wednesday evening with both fear and anticipation, knowing that Nevertheless, I persisted and voted with my conscience.

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(Photo credit: Tammy Sheldon Photography, for Women’s March Netherlands)

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(Photo credit: MamaCash)

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(Photo credit: Matilde Olsen)

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(Photo credit last two photos: Tammy Sheldon Photography, for Women’s March Netherlands)

Cross posted from EUI blogs.

Women’s March London

In a show of solidarity with the D.C. Women’s March, between 80,000 and 100,000 women, men, and very nasty children and babies marched on London. The March started in front of the U.S. Embassy on Grosvenor Square and ended with a rally at Trafalgar Square.

For us, the day started with a train ride from Cambridge packed with people preparing for the March, including a purple pram decorated with a sign that read: “Such a Nasty Baby.”

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The beginning of our March, on the train from Cambridge to London. Photo courtesy of @queencharlot.

The short tube ride from King’s Cross to Oxford Circus, a few blocks away from the March’s starting point, was so full that exiting the station happened at a snail’s pace.

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Our de facto March commencement, at the Oxford Circus underground station.

 

A pair of older women led everyone waiting to get out of the underground in a rendition Solidarity Forever, the union anthem set to the tune of the Battle Hymn of the Republic.

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The crowd waiting for the start of the March.

Crowds backed up more than two blocks away from the March’s designated start.

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Some very British signs.

The atmosphere of the London march was jovial and inclusive, with speeches by comedian and co-founder of the Women’s Equality Party Sandi Toksvig as well as Labour MP Yvette Cooper. Notable attendees included London mayor Sadiq Khan, writer and comedian Caitlin Moran, Hamilton creator Lin Manuel Miranda, and Sir Ian McKellen.

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The March was so successful that nearly two hours after the rally’s scheduled start time demonstrators were still pouring into Trafalgar Square.

As readers of this site already well know, it is important to keep up the momentum of this global movement, and ensure it materialises into action. Women, however, have never had the privilege of being off the clock, and I am confident now is no exception.

We are grateful to the women of yesterday. We are proud of the women of today. We want more for the women of tomorrow.

Shoutout to a less covered Women’s March: that of Lexington, KY, which included the mother of this very proud author, and 5,000 others

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The crowd at the close of the Lexington, KY Women’s March.

Angela Davis’s Speech at the Women’s March

“At a challenging moment in our history, let us remind ourselves that we the hundreds of thousands, the millions of women, trans-people, men and youth who are here at the Women’s March, we represent the powerful forces of change that are determined to prevent the dying cultures of racism, hetero-patriarchy from rising again.

“We recognize that we are collective agents of history and that history cannot be deleted like web pages. We know that we gather this afternoon on indigenous land and we follow the lead of the first peoples who despite massive genocidal violence have never relinquished the struggle for land, water, culture, their people. We especially salute today the Standing Rock Sioux.

“The freedom struggles of black people that have shaped the very nature of this country’s history cannot be deleted with the sweep of a hand. We cannot be made to forget that black lives do matter. This is a country anchored in slavery and colonialism, which means for better or for worse the very history of the United States is a history of immigration and enslavement. Spreading xenophobia, hurling accusations of murder and rape and building walls will not erase history.

“No human being is illegal.

“The struggle to save the planet, to stop climate change, to guarantee the accessibility of water from the lands of the Standing Rock Sioux, to Flint, Michigan, to the West Bank and Gaza. The struggle to save our flora and fauna, to save the air—this is ground zero of the struggle for social justice.

“This is a women’s march and this women’s march represents the promise of feminism as against the pernicious powers of state violence. And inclusive and intersectional feminism that calls upon all of us to join the resistance to racism, to Islamophobia, to anti-Semitism, to misogyny, to capitalist exploitation.

“Yes, we salute the fight for 15. We dedicate ourselves to collective resistance. Resistance to the billionaire mortgage profiteers and gentrifiers. Resistance to the health care privateers. Resistance to the attacks on Muslims and on immigrants. Resistance to attacks on disabled people. Resistance to state violence perpetrated by the police and through the prison industrial complex. Resistance to institutional and intimate gender violence, especially against trans women of color.

“Women’s rights are human rights all over the planet and that is why we say freedom and justice for Palestine. We celebrate the impending release of Chelsea Manning. And Oscar López Rivera. But we also say free Leonard Peltier. Free Mumia Abu-Jamal. Free Assata Shakur.

“Over the next months and years we will be called upon to intensify our demands for social justice to become more militant in our defense of vulnerable populations. Those who still defend the supremacy of white male hetero-patriarchy had better watch out.

“The next 1,459 days of the Trump administration will be 1,459 days of resistance: Resistance on the ground, resistance in the classrooms, resistance on the job, resistance in our art and in our music.

“This is just the beginning and in the words of the inimitable Ella Baker, ‘We who believe in freedom cannot rest until it comes.’ Thank you.”

Messages from the More than Half a Million Marchers in DC

My husband and I flew to DC the day before the march on a plane packed full with other march-goers.  Friends who stayed in Vermont participated in the Sister March held on Saturday in the state capitol, Montpelier, where the State police estimate there was a crowd of nearly 20,000 — in a town whose total population is just over 7,500.  Check out two of my favorite photos from that march, here and here.

In DC: Saturday morning began with a pre-march gathering hosted for Vermont march-goers by Senator Patrick Leahy and Marcelle Leahy at the Mott House, on Capitol Hill.  The overflow crowd was more than double the number originally anticipated. Our other Senator, Bernie Sanders, addressed the yuuuuge march in Montpelier.

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With Senator Pat Leahy at pre-march event he and Marcelle hosted on the Hill.

Then it was off toward the rally site.  Photos of a ceremony held before the rally, just outside the main entrance to the Museum of the American Indian:

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Yes indeed!

We then moved toward the rally site, except that it was so crowded it was impossible to get anywhere near the audio speakers, so we did not hear a single speech. We were surrounded by over 500,000 of our new best friends though.

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Spirits were high, the crowd massive, and the signs poignant.

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The iconic 1971 photo of Gloria Steinem and Dorothy Pitman Hughes . . .

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. . . and a re-creation commissioned by Pitman Hughes for Steinem’s 80th birthday celebration

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The march itself began in the early afternoon.  The crowds were so massive that they filled not just the avenue designated as march route, Independence Avenue, but the entire length of the Mall, all of Constitution Avenue, and all of Pennsylvania Avenue further north. I have participated in large demonstrations before, but none so overwhelmingly large that an entire section of a city becomes the march route.  En route and at the end:

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“Women’s rights are human rights.”

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We reached the designated end of the march — the Ellipse by the White House — and stayed there for a while as more marchers arrived and others left. We then began to head back to Capitol Hill to join a post-march gathering with colleagues.

As we started back along Pennsylvania Avenue, we turned headlong into a sea of marchers who were still coming and had not yet reached the end point. To get a better view, we climbed onto the bleachers still in place from the previous day’s parade.

What we saw took our breath away.  By now it was 4:00 PM, and the streets were packed solid with marchers still heading toward the White House.

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Further along our walk back to the Hill, we met up with President Lincoln outside the DC Court of Appeals, where departing marchers were leaving message placards.

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Nasty Women (and Men) United in Berlin

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Also in Berlin, Germany, women, men and children came together to show solidarity with the protesters in Washington DC. It was a gathering rather than a march, and with only a little over 500 participants attendance was relatively low compared to other sister marches taking place all around the world – but to use Shakespeares words: “And though she be but little, she is fierce.”  And the message sent was loud and fierce: Together, we rose our voices and stood up not only for women’s rights, but for equality, diversity and justice for all humanity. Colorful signs and pink hats lightened up the grey winter day also in Berlin and sent a sign of hope, empowerment and support from the German capital.

The gathering place couldn’t have been more symbolic: We met in front of the Brandenburg Gate in the heart of the city, just outside the doors of the US embassy. The Berlin wall used to stand on the other side of the Gate, a stone’s throw away from where we met, dividing the city into east and west for more than 25 years. For many Germans, especially those Berliners who have experienced the harm and dismay caused by the Berlin wall, it is inconceivable that a man became the US president who wants to build a wall to divide one nation from the other. Thirty years ago almost to the day one of Donald Trump’s predecessors, Ronald Reagan, stood on the other side of the Brandenburg Gate from where we gathered yesterday and urged the then leader of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev, to tear down the wall that divided Berlin. In his speech the then US president emphasized that it is the destruction of walls, not their construction, that “advance[s] dramatically the cause of freedom and peace” and leads to liberalization and prosperity. By citing Martin Luther King’s famous words, some of the protesters send the message in the other direction yesterday, demanding to “Build Bridges, Not Walls”. Powerful protests under the same heading took place all over the world over the past days. Let us hope that the message is heard and that a recurrence of harm similar to the one that was caused to the city of Berlin and the German people in the past century can be prevented.

Berliners have another story to tell when they think about the history of the US-German relationship: In 1963 John F. Kennedy underlined the United State’s support for West Germany by declaring that he was a Berliner, thereby encouraging West Berliners not to lose faith in the wake of the construction of the Berlin wall. Yesterday, the people in Berlin expressed their support for all those vulnerable and in fear because of Trump’s presidency. Aside from unquestioned support for justice and the rights and dignity of every human being, the Berlin people made clear that President Donald Trump, with his current demeanor, is not a Berliner.

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Photo Credit: Robert Klages

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Photo Credit: Robert Klages

People gather in front of the U.S. Embassy on Pariser Platz in solidarity with women's march in Washington and many other marches in several countries, in Berlin

Photo Credit: Reuters

Women, children, men, 63K strong, join John Lewis in Atlanta’s largest-ever march

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Total geeks.

img_0615Of all the things that Kate, Emma, and I saw in our hours of marching – a very slow couple miles, sloshing in rain boots – it was the sign at right that excited us most. The woman seemed surprised when we asked her if we could take a photograph. We explained:

“We’re international lawyers. Treaties matter to us.”

And thus we commemorated the woman’s tribute to Native Americans.

img_0582That was just one group represented at today’s march through downtown Atlanta. It began at the city’s 2-1/2-year-old Center for Civil & Human Rights. Then it went past Phillips Arena (home of the NBA Atlanta Hawks), the Georgia Dome (set to host tomorrow’s NFC championship, when the Atlanta Falcons plan to #RiseUp against the Green Bay Packers), and the Falcons’ new home, a still-under-construction nest of glass and steel called the Mercedes-Benz Stadium. It ended, as depicted at top, at Georgia’s Capitol, the aptly named Golden Dome.

Besides Native Americans, an array other groups were represented in countless signs, many of which had been sheathed in plastic against the morning downpour.

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Especially prominent were felines and feline references, and more pink than you’d find in a Pepto-Bismol factory.

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img_0593img_0598Families and friends (old and new) marched, all together.

Then, with a replica of the Statue of Liberty standing by, they listened to speeches by an array of community leaders – not least, U.S. Rep. John Lewis, the civil rights icon in whose 5th District the march occurred.

img_0609Organizers said 63,000 came to Atlanta, making it the city’s largest-ever march. They joined literally millions, including ‘Grrls (even non-marchers) in D.C., Sydney, and Philadelphia. Cymie’s crowd count has been eclipsed by the news that 2.5 million are said to have marched around the world.

Time now to convert good feelings and firm resolve to concrete action.

Dispatch from Atlanta

img_7674Unlike Diane & Beth, I am a “marcher.” I marched to protest the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and countless times for marriage equality and LGBT rights. Heck, I even organized a “food not bombs” campaign in college and spent hours stuffing envelopes with carefully-measured scoops of rice that students could send to President Bush in the White House.

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Then I became a lawyer. I haven’t marched much lately because, like them, I’ve felt I could better serve in a different capacity. But today, the marcher in me was reawakened. Though I wasn’t in D.C., walking the streets of Martin Luther King Jr.’s hometown felt like a great close second. The parade route was so incredibly American: we gathered at the Center for Civil and Human Rights, then marched along, past the Coca-Cola and CNN headquarters (where the crowd went wild chanting “not fake news”), and ended at the State Capitol in front of a miniature replica of the Statue of Liberty. At 63,000 strong, it was the largest march in Atlanta’s history.

Today was the first day since the election that I’ve felt truly empowered. It must have been the great company. Besides a tremendous number of energetic Atlantans, I had the pleasure of marching with my colleague and friend, Emma Hetherington, newly-minted Clinical Assistant Professor at Georgia Law (you go Grrl!), and my professor, mentor, colleague, and friend, Diane Marie Amann (see photo below: she’s hard at work documenting for the blog).

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I wish every day could be a march day. It feels good to stand up and be counted.

Vive la résistance!