Local rally draws hundreds for equal rights legislation.
The city of Lynchburg held a rally alongside various cities across the United States as a part of a national Women’s March on Jan. 19.
Despite the threat of rain, nearly 200 people gathered on the sidewalk near the Lynchburg Community Market for their own Women’s March rally, many wearing pink hats and toting protest signs.
Men, women and children showed up to Lynchburg’s march to show their support for the proposed Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), which states, “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.”
According to The News and Advance, the amendment was recently approved 26-14 by the Senate of Virginia. If the House of Delegates also approves the amendment, Virginia would be the 38th state to ratify the ERA.
Donna StClair and Martha Cousins are two members of Bedford Indivisible, a “group of constituents concerned with how national policy may affect the greater Bedford Community,” according to Bedford Indivisible’s Facebook page. The women said they spearheaded Saturday’s march to bring community involvement and awareness to the amendment.
“Particularly with the ERA hanging in the balance this year at the general assembly, I just felt like we needed an opportunity for there to be visible boots on the ground in Lynchburg,” StClair said.
The march in Lynchburg, a “no-budget operation” according to StClair, featured several speakers and a musical performance by local musician LeRoy Helferstay. The speakers cited various reasons to promote the ERA and urged the crowd to contact their congress members about voting to ratify the amendment.
The march in Lynchburg was put together in about a month, mostly by Cousins and StClair. Cousins said she was amazed by the number of people who turned up. Despite the number of marches in bigger cities, Cousins said a local event is important to the community.
“There never used to be any rallies in Lynchburg, and we were like, ‘You know what? It’s time’,” Cousins said. “…we’ve gone to Washington, we’ve gone to Charlottesville, we’ve gone to Roanoke – damn it, here we are.”
The local march was an opportunity for people in Lynchburg who hold a more progressive mindset to rally together and show the community what they believe, according to StClair.
“Too many people think that we are a homogenous community and that everybody is a fundamentalist, conservative Christian,” StClair said. “And that’s who a lot of people in this community are, but that’s not who everybody is.”
Dr. Danielle Currier, a professor of sociology at Randolph College, volunteered to hand out free cookies to the crowd before the event began. Currier, who attended the 2017 Women’s March in Washington, D.C., said the amendment is an opportunity to make progress toward equal rights for all people.
“I’ve been an activist for women’s rights since I was a kid,” Currier said. “I think that this march for me typifies that what we want is just equality. We want rights, we want the ERA, we want anti-sexual harassment, we want anti-sexual violence, and I think that this march brings together a bunch of people with the same goals.”
For StClair, the march was about more than just the ERA, it was to show the community the political weight local people can possess.
“I want people in Lynchburg to take away (from the march) the power that they hold – and use it,” StClair said. “…the world does belong to those who show up.”