Bethlehem Press

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Observations on the Women’s March

Tuesday, January 29, 2019 by Julia F. Swan Special to the Bethlehem Press in Opinion

The reported schism in the national Women’s March Organization got a lot of play recently. In reaction, the organizers of the Women’s March in the Lehigh Valley felt compelled to dissociate the local event from the national organization, stating, “Because the Women’s March leadership has not adequately disavowed the anti-Semitic and anti-LGBTQIA rhetoric and has failed to distance itself from the source of such rhetoric, the Women’s March On the Lehigh Valley has chosen to renounce its previous affiliation with the Women’s March in solidarity with our sisters in the Jewish and LGBTQIA communities.”

My take on this is that differences within a group that encompasses thousands of members are inevitable, and the controversy has been overblown. The suffrage movement around the turn of the 20th century faced controversies associated with the fact that it was largely a white, middle class movement. Working class women organizing for better working conditions and African-Americans fighting for equality had their differences with the Suffragists.

And the civil rights movement of the 1960s was not without controversy, with some of the more militant leaders taking issue with Dr. Martin Luther King’s nonviolent philosophy and others objecting to his increasing opposition to the Vietnam War.

As I joined about 200 women, men, young people and a few dogs rallying at Payrow Plaza Jan. 19, and listened to the speakers, I knew that I was not in full agreement with all of them, and am sure they were not all in full agreement with each other.

But they were united by their passion for justice, and for the rights of women and minorities. If there was one issue on which they were of one voice, it was opposition to President Trump. Even related to Trump, there was probably not unanimity. There were numerous signs calling for Trump’s impeachment, but I venture to guess there were some in the crowd who agree with me that impeachment proceedings would probably fail, further dividing the country in the process, and would leave us with President Pence, who in my view would not be much of an improvement, at least in terms of his policies.

What most impressed me Saturday was the passion and energy of Liberty HS senior Georgia Skuza, the lead organizer of the event. At an age when I was most interested in clothes, boys, movies and getting into college, Georgia organized the event and gathered an impressive group of speakers. There were women elected officials including Bethlehem City Councilwoman Olga Negron, Northampton County Councilwoman Tara Zrinski, and newly elected 7th District Congresswoman Susan Wild, as well as speakers representing a spectrum of progressive issues, from immigration to gun safety to transgender rights.

Also in attendance were representatives from Lehigh Valley For All, Fair Districts PA, and a handful of environmental groups.

This was not Georgia’s first foray into political rallies. Last spring she organized a walkout at Liberty to express solidarity with the students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas HS in Florida.

Marches like Saturday’s are essentially feel-good events. There is camaraderie among the attendees, and the signs are often clever and amusing, such as the one which demanded, “Impeach Trumputin.” But if they encourage at least a few of those in attendance to follow up by running for office, supporting other candidates for office, joining an organization which works on behalf of their priorities, or even just contacting their elected representatives to voice their concerns, they have served a valuable purpose.