HARTFORD, CT — When the Women’s March last year drew 10,000 people to the state Capitol, many wondered whether they would be able to maintain the enthusiasm and repeat the performance in 2018.
Turns out they did. The Capitol Police estimated this year’s crowd at around 10,000 once again.
Not only did women turn out to march Saturday — a full year into President Donald Trump’s first term and less than 24 hours after congressional inaction led to a federal government shutdown — many of them are now running for office. And in some cases, they’re not waiting their turn to do so.
Jillian Gilchrest, a co-chairwoman of the Connecticut Women’s March, said she is running for state representative in West Hartford, but she was told that she would have to wait for incumbent Rep. Andrew Fleischmann to decide when he didn’t want the seat anymore.
“Mind you he’s been in office for nearly a quarter of a century,” Gilchrest said of Fleischmann, who has served for 23 years. “And then I was told that I had to wait in line because there are men in front of me who want the seat when he steps down.
“Well I’m not waiting,” Gilchrest continued to a roar of applause. “Because this is a democracy and there are no lines. There are elections. And our voice is our vote.”
Gilchrest qualified for public financing 11 days after she announced her candidacy, which means she raised between $5 and $250 from 165 individuals within her West Hartford House district.
Not only are women running for office, but they’re also launching political organizations. There were dozens of speakers at Saturday’s event, which was reportedly one of thousands to take place around the world.
WomensMarch2018 at the Capitol
WomensMarch2018 at the Capitol – Denise Merrill, Jacqueline Kozin, Beth Bye, and Robyn Porter
Posted by CTNewsJunkie.com on Saturday, January 20, 2018
Sen. Beth Bye, another West Hartford Democrat, co-founded Politica CT, a progressive nonprofit organization, with Attorney Jamie Mills to help more women run for office.
In September, Jacqueline Kozin — who is also an organizer of the Women’s March — helped launch Ella’s List, which is a fund that supports women running for local elections.
Bye said fewer than a third of the members of the General Assembly are women, which is less than it was just a few years ago.
“We have flatlined,” Bye said. “This is a problem, not just a problem because we don’t have enough women but because when women lead, public health, education, reproductive rights, environmental protection, and social justice move to the core of our policy agenda, not the fringes.”
Bye highlighted the state legislature’s failure in 2017 to pass pay equity and paid family medical leave. She said family medical leave didn’t pass despite 70 percent public support as well as 70 percent support from small businesses.
Rep. Hilda Santiago, D-Meriden, told the crowd that they can’t give up.
Several speakers demanded inclusion for all during Saturday’s speaking program on the chilly north steps of the state Capitol.
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Posted by Al Robinson on Saturday, January 20, 2018
(Porter follows Beth Bye in the video above, fast forward to about the 45 minute mark)
Rep. Robyn Porter, D-New Haven, started her remarks by saying she was conflicted about speaking at the march.
“It was a thorny subject for me,” Porter said, adding that many of her “black and brown sisters felt that it was a women’s march that had left them out, and they wanted nothing to do with it.”
“They asked me things like ‘Why haven’t we been asked to participate in something?” Porter said. “Why haven’t we been able to come to the table and help in planning the menu? Why don’t we have any input? Why aren’t our voices being summoned?”
Especially, she said, since this movement and so many others were “birthed” by black women.
“And when we led, white women didn’t show up for us. And this is part of the reason why they told me they wouldn’t be here today,” Porter said. “Because frankly, they were sick and tired — sick and tired of what they felt was white women hijacking their history, and work, and discounting their worth.”
Porter said she wanted the movement to “make sure that black and brown women do not feel left out, that they do not feel like they have been left behind, and discounted, and that they are expendable, and that the issues in their communities are second fiddle because we must be included.”
She highlighted issues affecting black women that “have not garnered white women’s staunch support, issues that mainstream women’s rights movements often dismiss … like maternal mortality, infant mortality, police brutality, mass incarceration, the war on drugs — a.k.a. the war on black people — gang violence, unemployment, education, voting rights, the AIDS epidemic — because yes it’s still an epidemic in communities of color. And, the heroin epidemic. Yes, the epidemic has seeping into communities of color and heroin overdose rates have more than doubled — I said doubled — among blacks, latinos, and Native Americans, and the media is not talking about that.”
She continued: “It is time for white women to start showing up and showing out on the issues that impact black and brown women’s lives. Like the death of Jayson Negron. When was the last time you said his name? Why? Because Black Lives Matter. And believe it or not, that is one movement we would love for you all to hijack, especially since we have stood in solidarity with you all on every issue under the sun, bar none. Yes, it is time. White women must use their privilege in this movement to demand justice for the causes of the women whose very shoulders they have stood on over the centuries.”
The aerial image was provided by, and is the copyrighted property of, Neal Thomassen.