Elizabeth Casper’s niece ran up to her and jumped into her arms as soon as she closed out the Women’s March in Gainesville, Saturday, Jan. 19. They embraced and Casper went on to talk to people who had gathered outside Waldorf & Wonder inside Main Street Market after walking around the square — in the rain — holding signs calling for women’s equality and changes to the government.
Watching Casper the whole time was her niece, and it’s because of that little girl that Casper was there in the first place.
“Whenever I started being really involved in her life, that’s when I started trying to get involved in feminism and getting our voices heard,” said Casper, organizer of the Women’s March and president of the Hall County Democrats. “I just didn’t want her to have to put up with the things women in the past have had to put up with. I didn't want us to start regressing and her have to march for things we got back in the 70s. So I just wanted to stand up for her and future generations.”
Thousands gathered across the country for the annual event that began in 2017, and things in Gainesville were no different. Despite the cold weather, women, men and children took to the square, not protesting or shouting, but still making their presence known in the city.
“It’s always good to commemorate what happened in 2017, to show a presence and show people that we’re here,” said Marisa Pyle, group leader for Indivisible Lumpkin, a progressive political group. “We’re here, we’re committed, we have specific things that we want and ... we’re still committed to being active.”
Many of the things Pyle and others at the march said they want were political — the government shutdown to end, affordable housing in the area and respectful conversations with those that oppose them — but they were all there for one purpose, which was to encourage women to be the leading force in those changes.
“We need to support women getting into local government, state government and federal government,” Casper said. “Obviously, there is a more democratic party message here, because that's who’s mostly here, but I didn’t want to brand it like that … I didn’t promote it as a democrat event. It’s strictly to support women from all walks of life.”
Jennifer McCall, an attorney in Gainesville and wife of Josh McCall, a democrat who ran for United States House, 9th District, was at the event and spoke of how she got to where she is today.
She said she was the first person in her family born in the U.S. She said she was born into poverty and a family of refugees. Yet she became a lawyer and has tried to teach her daughters, one of whom also spoke at the event, they’re capable of the same things.
“As women, you can be whoever you want to be, and do whatever you want to do,” Jennifer McCall said. “And today we live in a world where my daughter's can say, ‘Of course my mom can be a lawyer because she wants to be a lawyer.’”
Kate McCall, one of Jennifer McCall’s daughters, asked everyone present to not engage in unhelpful conversation on social media. She said women’s rights won’t be solved through that sort of talk. She called for everyone listening to be more understanding of others.
“When the world goes as sour as it is now, it’s really hard for us to have faith in humanity,” Kate McCall said. “It's really hard for us to talk to people on a human level. But the thing is, we’re all fighting for this cause for the same reason the opposition is fighting for their cause: We all believe deep down it’s what’s best for the people.”
And in order for others to see they are marching for what they believe is best for the people, Pyle hoped for more events, and more gatherings like the Women’s March to get their message out.
“There are a lot of issues and there are a lot of things we feel passionately about,” Pyle said. “There needs to be a moment like this more where we can get together and voice all of those ideas, because all of them do need action.”