Womens’ Rights March

Natalie Burgess, Staff Writer

Holding signs reading “My body, my choice” and “Women’s rights are human rights” an estimated 7,000 men and women flooded two blocks in downtown Little Rock spanning from Victory St. to the steps of the Arkansas capitol building. The march was in solidarity with the Women’s March in Washington D.C. and 600 sister marches hosted the day after the 45th Presidential Inauguration, Jan. 21.

Organized by the Be the Change Alliance, including activist Shelle Stormoe, the march was formed in order to empower women, especially in response to  President Donald Trump’s controversial comments.

“[I hope] that [the march] will empower people with hateful agendas to take control of the government and create policies that punish people for nothing more than being poor, or being black, or being gay, or being a woman, or being trans, or being Muslim,” Stormoe said.

Sophomore Jade Ma echoed Stormoe’s sentiment.

“I just really needed some hope after Trump’s inauguration,” Ma said. “I really wanted to go out and do something and be a part of something bigger. This is the country we inherit and I want to try and make it better.”

Sophomore Jack Selig marched in honor of his sisters and women in general who have been targeted by President Trump’s words and actions.

“He’s been really degrading towards [women],” Selig said. “That’s why I marched–to show that women are not alone.”

He also marched to destigmatize male ideals on women’s equal rights.

“I got a text from my friend saying ‘Why did you march, you’re a man? Women have equal rights,’”Selig said. “Feminism has gained this negative connotation, but I’m not a woman and I’m a feminist.”

The speakers were mostly women, and one man, but they spoke on Mexican immigration, Muslim stigmatization, education, LGBT discrimination and more.

“When the young Muslim woman spoke about immigrating to America and living in Arkansas, [I felt empowered],” Ma said. “The things she said hit close to home for me, and I honestly started tearing up, because my parents immigrated to Arkansas from China so my brothers and I could have a better future. If they hadn’t moved here, I wouldn’t have the life I have today. When she spoke, I really felt connected to her and what she went through.”

The emcee of the event, activist and performer Crystal C. Mercer, lived vicariously through the crowd.

“I had surgery five weeks ago, [so] I wasn’t able to march, however I was going to stand as long as I could,” Mercer said. “I was in awe watching the people flood onto the capitol steps.”

The crowd included all genders, ages, races, political parties and social classes, all with the common goal of equality for women.

“There were warriors of social justice in the crowd, there were babies in the crowd, there were all kinds of people gathering for a common purpose,” Mercer said.

Mercer believes that when people unite and speak out people will listen. The large crowd did not show up to join a bandwagon, but to speak up individually together.

“I hope that I will continue to change, becoming more of the person I can be,” Mercer said. “I think the most radical thing you can do is be yourself.”

When the march ended, the crowd spanned from the top of the capitol steps all the way into the street.

“It was the most beautiful sight I’ve seen,” Mercer said.

The march inspired many participants, inciting cheers and fist pumps from the crowd.

“Just being there, just kind of the vibes of everyone being together and it just radiated,” Selig said. “It was crazy. It gave me hope in humanity.”

After the march, a link was posted to the Facebook event page for actions to take to further people’s involvement with women’s empowerment.

“I want to see a rational, sane response to problems that respects what scientists and others who study things can tell us,” Stormoe said. “I also want an America that values all people, and not just the wealthy, or privileged, or connected.”

To view more photos click here.