Organizers of the Women’s March on Asheville say they expect the city’s streets to be filled with demonstrators as locals join in solidarity with the national Women’s March on Washington on Saturday, Jan. 21.
Asheville Mayor Esther Manheimer will kick off the event at 11 a.m. at Pack Square Park. Other speakers will include state Senator Terry Van Duyn, Nikki Harris of Planned Parenthood, Rev. Glenda McDowell of The Cathedral of All Souls, Buncombe County Commissioner and Campaign for Southern Equality Executive Director Jasmine Beach-Ferrara, Zeke Christopoulos of Tranzmission and community activist Iindia Pearson.
From Pack Square, marchers will walk along Spruce Street to Walnut Street. The route will continue up North Lexington Avenue before turning onto College Street toward Pritchard Park. At the intersection of College Street and Patton Avenue, marchers will turn up Patton to return to Pack Square.
Marie-Line Germain, a professor at Western Carolina University, has led planning for the march. A former grassroots organizer for Hillary Clinton’s Asheville campaign, Germain says, “This march goes beyond political affiliation.” Her organizing activities, she says, are an outgrowth of her individual convictions and don’t represent the university.
Borrowing from the Women’s March on Washington’s mission statement, the Asheville march stresses the importance of standing in solidarity with friends and family for the protection of human rights. Organizers say the march is a statement rather than a protest.
Lori Horvitz, director of women, gender, and sexuality studies at UNC Asheville and a member of the Asheville march’s planning committee, emphasizes the power in numbers. “People feel helpless alone, but as a community we can find the energy and enthusiasm to move forward in a productive manner and get things done,” she says.
Getting things ready in time for the march has required the efforts of a volunteer planning committee of three professors and two retired executives. Germain and Horvitz both say local businesses have been helpful and supportive. On Friday, Jan. 20, THE BLOCK off Biltmore will host a sign-making event. T-shirts for the march will be available and all proceeds will go to Planned Parenthood South Atlantic.
Although the event is called a women’s march, Horvitz stresses that this is an event for all. “The root of the march stems from our commitment to holding onto the women’s rights we have fought so hard for and won — the right to vote, the right to receive equal pay for equal work, the right to our own reproductive destinies, among others. But it’s not just about women, it’s about looking at oppressions in general,” she says. “We invite all genders to join us, and march with us, and fight for our rights because when one person is oppressed, we’re all oppressed.”
According to the march’s Facebook event page, thousands of individuals are either signed up for or have indicated they are interested in the march. For information on the march or to volunteer, contact WomensMarchAVL@gmail.com, or 828-338-3028.