By Layne Saliba and David Barnes
Just one year after taking over the streets in cities all across America, women did so again Saturday as a reminder to the president and other men in government that they aren’t going anywhere.
In Gainesville, a group of more than 50 women, men and children gathered near the Eternal Flame monument downtown to march in solidarity with women nationwide and those who feel they have not been taken seriously.
“In one way, today is very bittersweet,” said Deborah Gonzalez, a Democrat who recently won the District 117 state House race in Clarke County. “Why are we here again?”
For many in the crowd, the answer, while the same as a year ago, was simple: empowerment.
Women gave speeches with messages they hoped would empower women to speak up for themselves and others, especially in the midst of the #MeToo movement against sexual harassment.
“It gives women a voice that I don’t think they’ve had before,” said Elizabeth Casper, who organized the women’s march in Gainesville. “Now, I think there’s a forum for people to come and talk. People do care and we want to do something about it.”
In order to do something about it, Gonzalez said there needs to be more women in public office. Having the same men in government year after year will not bring the change they want to see, she said.
“If we desperately want to change what is going on, women have to run and win,” Gonzalez said. “And we, as women, need to support and vote for them. That’s the only way change will happen.”
There were plenty of cheers and momentary pauses for applause as the women addressed the crowd. Finally, the group made its way across the midtown pedestrian bridge, winding down the sidewalks past the old jail on Main Street and finally came to a resting spot at the Midtown Greenway.
The crowd carried signs along the way to voice their opinion on the state of government and how women can continue to carry their momentum throughout the coming years.
“The biggest reason we’re here is for the future,” Michelle Jones said. “We’ve been going through a lot of the same struggles for decades now. It’s not anything new. We’ve made a little bit of progress, but we definitely have to keep the momentum.”
“If we don’t speak out when we see that things are wrong, or not right, we are complacent,” said Beth Neidenbach, who took part in the march. “So I feel that the least I can do is come and be supportive in something like this.”