Women’s March Participants Undeterred by Winter Storm
Indivisible We Rise West Central PA sponsored the Women’s March in Clarion in coordination with sister marches in cities and communities across the globe. It was held to commemorate the 2017 Women’s March on Washington.
Topics at the Clarion rally included women’s rights, human rights, sexual violence, and related issues. One speaker urged the crowd to contact Congress to urge politicians to take action against the injustice of children being separated from their parents that is still occurring at the nation’s southern border.
Although the event was somewhat hampered by the impending weather – with keynote speakers Dr. Susan Boser, former candidate for PA’s 15th Congressional District, and Indiana University of PA Sociology Professor, and Dr. Catherine Adams, a board-certified pediatrician and adult-child psychiatrist practicing in central PA, unable to attend – a crowd of around 70 people braved the blowing snow to gather in the gazebo in Veterans Memorial Park.
The event opened with a blessing by Rev. Dr. Jonathan Scanlon, Pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Clarion.
Following the blessing, Clarion Borough Mayor Dan Parker also addressed those gathered.
“It really is nice that we can all gather together here today and to celebrate the things that bring us together,” Parker said.
“We’re here to share our commitment to a set of core beliefs, beliefs like human dignity and justice for all, equality for all, and respect for human life and individual choices. It’s celebrating these common beliefs that bring us here on this cold and snowy day, but more importantly, it is these shared beliefs that bind us together as a community, and being a community makes us stronger individuals and makes life together more fulfilling. Being in a community has some awesome benefits to the individual, but comes with some tremendous responsibilities. We owe it to ourselves, and to each other, to defend the common good, to promote civility in public life, and to demand fairness and justice for everyone.”
After the opening of the event, the march itself began as those gathered moved from the gazebo and lined up to make their way across town to the library.
While the program for the event was trimmed down, the organizers and those in attendance soldiered on, marching through the blowing snow along Main Street, chanting slogans ranging from “Love not hate makes America great,” to “No hate, no fear, immigrants are welcome here.”
Upon reaching the library, the marchers paused for a group photo before moving inside, where coffee and snacks awaited and the bulk of the program took place.
According to organizer Kathy Krouse, they were “stunned” at the number of people who came to the event, considering the weather and the impending storm.
“Only in a community like this would people come out on a day like this to make a stand and make a statement,” Krouse said.
The first speaker for the event was Marlene Austin, the Executive Director for Passages, Inc., a local non-profit that advocates for the needs of survivors of sexual violence and works to eliminate sexual violence through education and promotion of social change.
“Conversations around sexual abuse and harassment have been in the spotlight throughout this year due to the rise of the MeToo Movement and the TimesUp Movement, and while these movements are working to bring important changes in our society, they can also fall distant from the instances that are happening right here in our own community,” Austin said.
“I would love to be able to stand here today and say that sexual violence is not even an issue in our country and I would, even more so, love to stand here today and say that sexual violence is not an issue here in our community. However, that is definitely not the case.”
“I’ve spent the last 22 years of my life working with an advocating for victims of sexual abuse. In fact, the CDC actually says that sexual violence is an epidemic. It’s a public health issue that affects millions of women and men and boys and girls. It is the root cause of many social and health issues and it touches every single one of us here in some way or another.”
“One in every four girls and one in every six boys are going to fall victim to the crime of sexual abuse and Clarion County is not exempt in this. In fact that number, if you really think about it, one in four and one in six, that number is so incredibly high that each and every one of us in this room, we know someone that this has happened to, probably someone pretty close to you, whether you know it or not.”
Sexual violence was not the only topic presented during the event.
Dr. Janina Jolley, a recently retired Clarion University professor who holds a Ph.D. in Lifespan Developmental Psychology, also spoke about the long-term damage caused by children being separated from their families, in relation to the current separations still occurring at the nation’s southern border.
“It doesn’t take an MD or a Ph.D. to know that separating children from their parents is the wrong thing to do and that it has serious and long-term consequences, for not only the children but for the families and for society,” Jolley said.
“Thousands of studies have been done and have found this initial relationship you have with your parents is the foundation for all future relationships. If you learn to trust and love you can go on to be an adult who can trust and love, but if you’ve learned that your parents won’t be there, that is the lesson you’ve learned, and it’s unlikely you’ll learn to trust others down the road.”
According to Jolley, when a child is separated from their parents in this way and put under the stress of an institutional environment, it does permanent damage to the child.
“It makes them less likely, throughout their lives, to be able to control their emotions. It makes them not learn as easily. It actually makes them more susceptible to disease. Children that grow up under stress are more likely to develop obesity, diabetes, heart disease, even Alzheimer’s,” Jolley said.
“What happens, even if these children are reunited, again that trust has been violated, and as they grow up, their contribution to society has been diminished. They’re not going to be the people they would have been. So, I urge you to contact your congress, through ResistBot, to say we’ve got to end this policy of family separation. It’s not just bad for the children, it’s bad for society, it’s bad for America.”
While the majority of the program did focus on women’s right and human rights issues, in honor of this year marking the third annual Women’s March across the nation, and in celebration of the progress made, the event did also include music, with both local musician Samantha Sears, as well as several of the Indivisible We Rise organizers stepping to the mic.
The program wrapped up with a final benediction offered by Ann Liska of Clarion University Campus Ministry.
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