K-State students and faculty participate in Women’s March on Topeka

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Kim Hiller, Genna Reeves-DeArmond, Marne Arthaud-Day, Amy Hageman, Melendra Sanders, Vivienne Uccello and Rhonna Hargett attend the Women's March in Topeka, Kansas on Jan. 21, 2017. (Courtesy photo by Genna Reeves-DeArmond)

As part of a worldwide movement of rallies and protests for women’s rights, several Kansas State students and faculty, as well as Manhattan residents, attended Saturday’s Women’s March on Topeka.

Capitol Police Lt. Eric Hatcher said over 3,000 people attended the rally in Topeka, the Topeka Capital-Journal reported. Worldwide, Women’s March organizers tallied 673 marches and an estimated 4.8 million people took part in the marches.

The worldwide rallies were centered around the Women’s March on Washington, D.C., which took place at the National Mall a day after President Donald Trump’s inauguration.

On the Women’s March website, march officials said the heated rhetoric during the election cycle and the months running up to the inauguration had diminished women’s rights.

Genna Reeves-DeArmond, assistant professor of apparel, textiles and interior design at K-State, said protests were necessary to protect women’s rights.

“Women’s rights are being decided by a select few with radically outdated and self-serving conservative views,” Reeves-DeArmond said. “They do not match the needs of the modern woman or her ability to make choices about those needs.”

Reeves-DeArmond said she hoped the march would bring women’s issues to the attention of lawmakers at both state and national levels.

“I attended because I have felt helpless and scared in this process,” Reeves-DeArmond said. “At a time when democracy should be alive and well, we are experiencing a nightmare at the hands of an incapable and immature individual. The march was a chance to gather together with others who felt the same.”

Mikaela Moore, freshman in chemistry, said she did not expect so many people to be at the march.

“I was kind of surprised by how many people there were,” Moore said. “We went to Kansas People’s Agenda rally at the Capitol last week, and there were only a couple hundred there. There were also a lot of older people there, people who participated in marches back in the ’60s through the ’80s. They were very happy to see a lot of younger people at the march.”

Moore went with Rachel Hunt, freshman in biology. Hunt said the atmosphere was one of mutual support and concern for issues facing women today.

“I was glad that there were so many other people who were worried about Trump’s presidency and wanted to make sure women’s rights didn’t regress,” Hunt said. “It made me hopeful to see so many people there.”

Virginia Davis, senior in apparel design and production, said the crowd included women and men of various backgrounds.

“It was so diverse,” Davis said. “There were so many different people there. It’s not just about women. Everyone was represented. There was a feeling of community and solidarity.”

Despite the large crowd and intimidating atmosphere, Hunter Rose, senior in social sciences, said she grew more comfortable at the march.

“When we got to the march, we came in through the backside, then we went to the front, coming around the corner,” Rose said. “Then we saw and heard thousands of people with signs. I felt myself drawn forward and I just started crying. I was so moved by the energy that was there.”

Rose said she was initially concerned there would be violence.

“I was kind of scared there would be protests against us, or riots or violence, but none of that showed,” Rose said. “It was about support, love, solidarity, recognition and acceptance.”

Moore said she was glad the march also raised concern for issues affecting other groups.

“One major theme was intersectionality,” Moore said. “At the national level, I hope it will bring together all these groups that aren’t being heard. Like Black Lives Matter, the Native American water defenders and LGBTQ. You see them separately, but all these issues are tied together. Hopefully, this will tie together the groups.”

Annabelle Frese, junior in apparel and textiles, said the march highlighted the need for greater unity among cultural movements.

“People were asking, ‘Are we going to see you nice white women at the next (Black Lives Matter) rally?'” Frese said. “And I really hope that happens. We need to be supportive and have other movement’s backs. We need to be there for them in every way.”

Reeves-DeArmond said she felt empowered to be part of a worldwide group.

“We united to make our voices known and hear the strength of our collective,” Reeves-DeArmond said. “There’s something very powerful about physically standing in a group, cheering when you hear your interests represented and expressing your interests.”

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I'm Rafael Garcia, and I'm a 2019 K-State graduate in journalism and former editor-in-chief of the K-State Collegian. I believe that much of the world's problems come from a lack of understanding of other people, but by telling other people's stories and finding the good in the world, I think we can increase our understanding and appreciation of each other. Questions, comments, concerns, news tips? Email the Collegian team at news@kstatecollegian.com.