Nationwide protests honor Women’s Equality Day in struggle

The ANSWER Coalition actively supports the work of Women Organized to Resist and Defend (WORD)

WORD: Women Organized to Resist and Defend

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Watch a slideshow with photos from around the country!

On August 23-26, Women Organized to Resist and Defend (WORD) carried out nationwide demonstrations in honor of Women's Equality Day focused on stopping the right-wing attacks targeting women’s rights and the rights of all oppressed people. WORD recognizes that recent escalating attacks on a woman’s right to choose -- a basic and core demand of the feminist movement -- come in the context of a wave of attacks against historical victories won in all people’s movements.

Demonstrations took place in Albuquerque, NM; Asheville, NC; Boston, MA; Chicago, IL; Columbia, MO; Dallas, TX; Flint, MI; Houston, TX; Los Angeles, CA; New Haven, CT; New Paltz, NY; New York City, NY; Phoenix, AZ; Sacramento, CA; San Francisco, CA; Seattle, WA; and Washington, DC. On the East Coast, WORD mobilized for the march and rally commemorating the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington in Washington, D.C.

Below please find reports from just some of these actions submitted to WORD from organizers nationwide:

Chicago, Illinois

Women's Equality Day speak-out in Chicago
Speak-out in Chicago, August 23

On August 23, women from all over Chicago gathered at downtown’s Federal Plaza to demand equality for women everywhere. In the middle of the busy evening rush hour, we held a banner that read “We Won’t Go Back, We Will Fight Back.” Our sisters from women’s organizations around the city to joined the speak-out.

One woman who gave a particularly moving speech is a clinic escort in the city. She spoke of the verbal harassment so many women receive when they are being escorted into abortion clinics, and more often than not are physically harassed by anti-choice protestors, who think they have the right to actually try to physically pull a woman away from entering a clinic. More than one speaker mentioned the bigger connection that attacks on women’s rights are actually attacks on the rights of working people everywhere.

During the speak-out, activists were doing outreach and talking to women on the street about equality. Between speakers, there were lively chants such as, “When women’s rights are under attack, what do we do? Stand up, fight back!” and “Not the church, not the state, women will decide their fate!”

San Francisco, California 

Women's Equality Day speak-out in San Francisco
Speak-out in San Francisco, Aug 24

On August 24, WORD held a speak-out in front of the 24th & Mission Street BART station. Many women and some men spoke about the broad array of issues that are affecting women and their rights. Each speaker made the connection between the multitude of issues faced by women and the need to fight together for the benefit of all. As one speaker said: "You can look at the world around you and see that it is really, really messed up. We've come far, but we've not come far enough. ... I'm not going to stand by and wait. I'm not going back." A wide variety of issues were highlighted, including reproductive rights, quality education, poverty, health care, sexual violence, police brutality and the struggle to free Chelsea Manning (formerly Bradley Manning).

Many people stopped to participate, listen in, sign up, and help passing out flyers about WORD to passers-by. While recalling the surge of sexist statements and laws that were happening this previous fall and how women's rights are still treated as negotiable tokens amongst politicians, the crowd chanted: "We won't back down, we won't wait! Women's rights are not up for debate!" One young woman who spoke said: "They continue to silence our voices. We need to stand together as women, as sisters and FIGHT!"

Washington, D.C. 

WORD at March on Washington, 8.24.13
Washington, D.C., August 24

WORD mobilized for the march and rally in Washington, D.C., on August 24 to commemorate the 50the Anniversary of the March on Washington. As part of this mobilization, WORD members from across the East Coast – including New York City, New Paltz and New Haven – took buses to D.C. to participate. At the march, WORD volunteers held signs with pro-women demands and did outreach among the crowd of 200,000 people.

Women from around the country attended the March on Washington for many reasons. Deborah, a march attendee from Greensboro, North Carolina, explained: "I came out today to show that we have a voice. In North Carolina, they are trying to take away our right to reproductive health care and our right to vote. We are here to show that we are organized!"

Flint, Michigan

In Flint, Michigan, NAACP W. I. N. (Women In NAACP) held a luncheon to honor Women’s Equality Day celebrating the 100 Year Anniversary of the Suffrage March. 62 Ladies were in attendance. Women's Organizations were: Michigan State NOW, LWV, UAW, Region 1- C Women's Council, Coalition of Labor and Union Women, Thursday Afternoon Club, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc., NAACP (Lansing and Detroit), Michigan State Church Women United (from Detroit),  Michigan State Senator Jim Ananick,  Genesee County Treasurer Deb Cherry, Michigan State Representative Pam Faris, Michigan Democratic Party Women's Caucus, several ladies running for office, ladies from local organizations and Missionary Societies.

Sacramento, California 

Women's Equality Day Sacramento
Sacramento, August 24

Women Organized to Resist and Defend held a speak-out for Women’s Equality Day on August 24 in Sacramento at a local park. The focus of the event was on the connection between immigrant rights and women’s rights in our fight for equality in the United States.

At the speak-out, several WORD members spoke to address different issues. Marissa shared why she fights for women’s equality. Celia spoke about what immigrant women face in terms of sexual violence along the U.S./Mexico border. Mallory read a spoken word piece titled “Why I Fight,” which expressed the struggle against capitalism and the need for unity amongst working people. Two women from Movimiento Molcajete led a circle discussion about the need for women’s rights and direct action.

“Human Rights, Worker’s Rights, Immigrant Rights, Student Rights Are All Women’s Rights,” could be seen on the signs carried by participants as we marched through a neighborhood in North Sacramento.

Los Angeles, California 

Women's Equality Day march in LA, 8.25.13
March in Los Angeles, August 25

Women and allies took the streets of Hollywood for a spirited march on August 25 to honor Women’s Equality Day in struggle. Speakers from WORD, AF3IRM, UniteWomen, Ladyfest LA and other women’s rights and community groups addressed the crowd, stressing the importance of unity and connecting important issues like education, LGBTQ rights, immigrant rights and the struggle against racism.

The march was a great success despite the intense heat, and chants rang out through the crowded tourist area, including “They say get back, Women say fight back!” and “Hey hey, ho ho, sexism has got to go!”

Boston, Massachusetts 

Boston Women's Equality Day rally
Rally in Boston, August 25

In honor of Women's Equality Day, a group of women and men braved the summer heat and rallied outside of Park Street station in Boston, Massachusetts. Several organizations came out and spoke, representing many different struggles.

Jennifer Zaldana spoke on behalf of WORD, saying, "We as organizers and fighters in the women's movement have a duty to bring all of our different struggles together, just as we've done today. From the fight against sexual exploitation and domestic violence to the fight for immigrant and workers rights, to winning justice for victims of police violence. Together we can and will win."

Monique Nguyen, executive director of MataHari: Eye of the Day spoke of their mission to end gender-based violence and exploitation, as well as the campaign for a Domestic Workers Bill of Rights. Nikia Ramsey and Jordana Monteiro with Live4BO (Better Opportunities Inc.) spoke of their fight for justice and answers in the murder of their brother and friend Burrell “Bo” Ramsey, who a year ago was shot and killed by an unnamed Boston Police officer after a routine traffic stop. Nikki Casey, co-founder of We Are FUSE, spoke of the importance of empowering women and ending patriarchy so equality and independence thrive. Other organizations represented included Hollaback Boston, Cambridge Women's Center, SA, WRise, the Party for Socialism and Liberation (PSL) and ANSWER Boston.

Between speakers, chants such as "Whatever we wear, wherever we go, yes means yes and no means no!" and "No justice, no peace! No racist police!" spread through the crowd and got the attention of many people walking by.

This was the first action organized by WORD in Boston, and many women signed up for more information and to get involved. Some came up to the WORD table after the event stating that though they had known about it in advance, they abruptly changed their afternoon plans to stay and support the women's struggle.

Asheville, North Carolina 

Asheville Women's Equality Day rally
Rally in Asheville, August 25

On August 25, Asheville women and allies gathered downtown to celebrate Women's Equality Day, remember the historic March on Washington, and continue the fight for our rights.

Once everyone gathered, we began chanting "Hey McCrory, what dya' say? How many clinics did you close today?" "When women's rights are under attack, what do we do? Stand up fight back!" "The people united will never be defeated!" and a few others. We then held a rally where Emily Parker, a member of WORD, spoke to demonstrators about the importance of remaining active and in the streets to demand equality, and Mariah Harbin, also with WORD, spoke to remind us of the victories we have won through organized struggle and how important our continuing involvement is.

Throughout the rally, we circulated a sign-on letter to Gov. McCrory demanding the immediate repeal of the Health and Safety Changes Act and restoration of our reproductive rights. Overall, those who came out to show their support were enthusiastic, and the protest received a good response from passing cars and pedestrians.

Albuquerque, New Mexico

Women's Equality Day Albuquerque
Albuquerque, August 25

Hundreds of people turned out in Albuquerque on August 25 to celebrate Women’s Equality Day.  August 25 is now officially recognized in New Mexico as a day of observance of the struggle for women’s freedom and equality. 

The Albuquerque chapter of WORD participated in the event. We gathered dozens of signatures from community members pledging to fight against a city ordinance that would ban abortions after 20 weeks.  Other participants included the National Organization of Women, the League of Women Voters, the Respect ABQ Women campaign, and the Women’s Resource Center at the University of New Mexico. 

New Haven, Connecticut 

New Haven Women's Equality Day rally
Rally in New Haven, August 26

On August 26 in New Haven, Conn., women and allies from WORD, the local community and Yale University gathered to raise our voices in protest of attacks on women's rights. The action took the form of a people's speak-out, with each person in attendance making a statement on why sexism is relevant to them and why they are in the struggle. The speak-out had two main speakers -- one from WORD and one from Yale. 

The large Yale contingent was present in light of the recent news of Yale's sexist policies regarding rape on campus, and the decision by the student group Students Against Sexual Violence at Yale to fight back. Alexandra Brodsky, a lead organizer in the recent struggle for a Title IX investigation into Yale's policies, gave a passionate speech. She told the crowd: "The fact that the criminal justice system won't deliver justice, the fact that the school refuses to deliver justice, doesn't mean that we are out of options. That's why it's so important to stand up and fight back because at the end of the day we are able to hold our community accountable, and we are able to hold the authorities accountable."

Other central topics included rape culture on campuses overall, the need to stand with Chelsea Manning, reproductive rights, the role of women in civil rights, LGBTQ rights and immigrants' rights struggles, the impact of imperialist wars on women worldwide, and the tremendous struggle of Indigenous women in the United States.

WORD will be joining the students at Yale in their organized efforts to change the university's sexist policies. Currently, the university's recommended maximum punishment for rape is a written reprimand.

Dallas, Texas

Dallas Women's Equality Day rally
March in Dallas, August 26

Dallas Women’s Equality March and Rally was organized by TAPA – Texans Allied for Progressive Action – along with local activist groups and volunteers.  Women and men rallied and marched through downtown Dallas to celebrate the passage of the 19th amendment ninety-three years ago on August 26th, 1920. The landmark law gave women the right to vote, but that great victory did not end the fight for equality.

A diverse group of speakers attended, from elected officials to candidates and activists, including Ms. Poppy Northcutt, the president of the National Organization for Women – Texas. They spoke out about women’s issues such as violence against women, affordable healthcare, the need for more women to run for office, equal pay, and other important issues concerning women and families.

After the speakers, approximately 150 marchers – many dressed in white in remembrance of the original suffragists – carried signs and banners demanding equality and voicing their resistance to the anti-women laws that passed recently in Texas. Chants of “We demand equality,” “Whose Streets? Our Streets!” and “Women not just in the house, in the Senate too!” echoed against the backdrop of skyscrapers and fading twilight.

The protesters ranged across all ages, genders, and races. Daughters marched alongside mothers and grandmothers. Fathers and brothers and sons took up banners and shouted their support. People from across the Metroplex turned out to support the ongoing fight for women’s equality and to honor those who fought before us. As one former city councilwoman declared, “It’s our time.”

Seattle, Washington

On August 17, Seattle WORD marched with the “Free Marissa Alexander” contingent in the Seattle commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington. Our signs were well received and we assisted in promoting the Sept. 14 rally on Marissa’s birthday.

Watch a video from the San Francisco speak-out!

Watch a slideshow with photos from around the country!

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