By Sara M. McDonald
Demonstrators of all genders, colors, creeds and ages gathered together on Sunday in downtown St. Petersburg to demand changes in a country torn by injustice and inequality.
There was a sea of signs, a wall where victims could write down their stories, a chalk walk that begged for us to “love one another” and countless ideas being passed back and forth amongst the crowd as they tried to hang on to hope.
Following in the footsteps of the Women’s March on Washington last year, rallies across the nation formed to encourage and inspire people to let their voices be heard via polls, with their main goal being this year’s midterm elections.
The march started at Mirror Lake Park and the participants could be heard on Fifth Street S as they made their way to Central Ave and on to the rally at Williams Park.
The marchers gathered to empower. Joy Kruella, a USF St. Petersburg psychology alumna, encouraged women to “not be the victim.”
“I think it’s important to be here today, because as a woman it is up to us to make a difference and to not blame other people,” said Kruella. “We need to just stand up. If we act like victims we will be victims and we are much stronger than that.”
There were speakers and tents from local universities, supporters of the #MeToo movement, DACA dreamers, politicians and activists. This was a space for progressive people to gather, unite and inspire others to not just march or tweet, but to act.
“Washington may shut down but we must keep moving,” the protesters said.
Casey Bauer, President of the University of Tampa’s College Democrats, said he marched because he believed that “our culture and country needs to change. Its 2018, sexual harassment, assault and hate should not be permissible and passed off as ‘locker room talk’.”
He added that he hopes this march will “get people excited about voting and bring a tidal wave of elected women to office.
“Maybe our government is so dysfunctional because its almost completely run by men. I don’t understand how women make up 53% of the electorate, yet they only represent 22% in Congress/Senate. That needs to change.”
There are many common misconceptions on the ideas of feminism, the women’s marches and the movements attached.
“The march is not what caused the federal government to shut down. Believing in feminism and the ideas of this march does not mean you hate men,” said Rebecca Guthrie. “It just means you believe in a tomorrow where everyone is equal and have a right to their lives and most importantly their bodies.
“This march is about equality,” Guthrie said.
Anna Gasztold, 21, drove from Pasco County to attend the event.
“Someone actually asked me if this was a ‘crazy-man-hating thing’ when it’s obviously not. Everyone here is so open and welcoming to all supporters of the cause,” Gasztold said. This is about equality and moving toward something better for society, and attending makes a little difference in the world.”
“This is just the beginning of a much bigger picture in a sense. By getting involved, it’s going to show in the midterms and change is going to grow from that. And I think that’s what we accomplished,” she said.
Header photo courtesy of Anna Gasztold