Friday, February 23, 2018

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Women’s March in Eau Claire addresses issues

Rally paid attention to overcoming racial injustice and voter suppression 

  • ED-Womens-1a-012118

    A Women’s March rally held in downtown Eau Claire on Saturday was known as the Anniversary Day of Action. View more photos at LeaderTelegramPhotos.com.

    Staff photo by Elena Dawson
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  • ED-Womens-16a-012118

    Women’s march in Downtown Eau Claire on January 20, 2017. View more photos at LeaderTelegram.com

    Staff photo by Elena Dawson
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    Women’s march in Downtown Eau Claire on January 20, 2017. View more photos at LeaderTelegramPhotos.com

    Staff photo by Elena Dawson
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Following President Donald J. Trump’s inauguration one year ago, hundreds of thousands of people flooded the streets donning pink hats and carrying handmade signs raised above their heads as part of the nationwide Women’s March. 

On Saturday, it returned.

Coinciding with hundreds of other anniversary marches, the Wisconsin chapter of Women’s March planned three rallies across the state, including one in Eau Claire. 

The other two were held in Green Bay and Milwaukee.

Known as the “Anniversary Day of Action,” this year’s demonstration added a few items to its agenda, including overcoming racial injustice and voter suppression.

The day’s events began with a rally at 10 a.m. in Phoenix Park where speakers addressed a crowd of people of all ages. 

At 11 a.m., participants began to march through downtown Eau Claire to the Unitarian Universalist Congregation, where community service and workshops were planned.

Nazir Khan, the regional director for Wisconsin chapter of Women’s March and one of the event’s organizers, said last year’s march was about “raising our voices” to let President Trump know that women weren’t going to be “passive” during the new administration.

“Now it’s about continuing to fight just for everyday issues we’re still facing, especially making it more grassroots because to affect real social change you need to focus on the small stuff,” Khan said.

As a young Muslim woman of color, Khan said she feels her identity in itself is political, which motivates her to be an activist for social change.

“I don’t want to live 50 years from now regretting that I didn’t change the things I couldn’t accept and (regret that) I didn’t use the power I have to (promote) change in my community,” Khan said.

Violet Kilmurray, a state co-chair for the Wisconsin chapter of Women’s March and the event’s organizer, helped create the Wisconsin chapter in November.

“I’m marching because I don’t like what’s going on in this country right now, and if I’m going to complain about it I need to be a part of the change,” Kilmurray said. “I can’t just sit there and complain if I’m not going to do anything.”

Khan and Kilmurray are just a sophomore and a senior, respectively, at Memorial High School. The pair attended the rally in Minneapolis last year and wanted to take it a step further this year by organizing the march.

“I really like leading,” Kilmurray said. “Anyone can make a change no matter what they do, but I want to help lead making the change.”

Khan said stepping up to the role of regional director was scary, but she’s learning as she goes. For her, it reiterates the idea that anyone can make a difference no matter how little experience that person might have.

Tara Kent of Chippewa Falls brought her two daughters Daelyn, 10, and Talia, 5, along on Saturday. 

Kent said she is concerned about the current political atmosphere, including issues such as reproductive rights and equal pay. Additionally, she hopes these demonstrations will aid in fostering a culture where her two daughters can feel safe walking down the street.

“We’re here to make our voices heard and show the girls they can make a difference,” Kent said.

Attending the march with Kent were her mother Sam Blasko and her uncle Mike Manor, both of Eau Claire.

Blasko said it’s important for women to speak up now because she doesn’t want her children or grandchildren to endure what she went through. As a single mother of two children, Blasko said she was “stepped on” and “pushed around” for being a woman working in business.

“If we don’t do this, it’ll keep getting swept under the rug,” Blasko said. “We won’t let this die this time.”


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