Three women from the small community of Ripley attended the Women's March on Washington, D.C. on Jan. 21, the day after the inauguration of Donald Trump as the 45th President of the United States. They traveled by bus with 52 other people from Fredonia to get to Washington.
In a statement from the organizers of the March on Washington: "In light of this past election where women, immigrants, religious faiths, people of color and disabilities, the LGBT community and others have felt insulted and threatened, an organized march was planned to show solidarity in numbers too large to ignore."
"I really didn't think of it as a protest or march so much as a rally for various issues," stated Amy Near, retired social worker. "We want a 'big tent' that includes all kinds of people."
Voter rights and environmental issues motivated Near to attend.
"Trump's rhetoric about environmental issues concerns me. Family members of mine are involved in environmental conservation," she said.
These women from Ripley agreed that they went as a show of support to keep the rights "we fought so hard to get." Laurel Adams feels the Electoral College is no longer a relevant or valid representative of the people.
"The election really doesn't affect me personally," she said, "as far as reproductive rights."
She worries for friends and relatives in the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, and she worries about public park lands being sold to private parties.
"Are they going to start digging up our beautiful parklands for oil?" she wondered.
Rhonda Thompson, Ripley librarian, went for the experience.
"I've never done anything like this before," she said. "My big concern is the Affordable Care Act and what will replace it.
"Historically the cost of insurance for women has been double that of men. Women have had fewer opportunities because, let's face it, it has been cheaper to hire men."
Adams went on to say that according to recent statistics, the abortion rate has fallen below the level during the Roe vs. Wade decision in 1973.
"The availability of contraceptives, and insurance coverage of them, have reduced the rate of abortion. Planned Parenthood was a major player in that effort and now they want to defund the program. Planned Parenthood isn't just about abortion. They service the needs of a less-advantaged group of women, including health care and contraceptives. Abortion would never have been an option for me, but I don't think it is right to choose what is right for other women."
As for the event itself, "it was packed and we couldn't even move," Near stated. "The beautiful thing was, I knew everyone around me was trying to take care of everyone else around them."
The number of people who turned out was more than double that expected by organizers.
All the women agreed that the event was filled with acceptance and politeness.
"I am so proud of the 500,000-plus people there! They went, they demonstrated peacefully and there was no violence," added Thompson.
"It was almost comical," Adams said. "We were gridlocked and every time someone would bump into someone else, they would apologize. One young man with an LBGT sign put his hands up and said if he touched anyone inappropriately he was really sorry! You just couldn't help bumping into people."
Medical help stations were scattered throughout the crowd. Because most of the crowd of over 500,000 couldn't hear the speakers, information was passed by word of mouth.
"If you need medical help, come here," would be passed along from person to person. There were places where people could gather if they'd lost their group.
"We got separated from our group and didn't see anyone from our bus until 4:30," said Near. "We had to hold hands to keep from getting separated from our little group of four."
This wasn't just a women's march. Rainbow flags of the LGBT community were there; pro-choice groups; the ACLU; union workers of the AFL-CIO; CSEA (Civil Service Employees Association); and church groups were represented. One of the women mentioned that some conservatives don't seem to understand that you can be Christian and a liberal.
Near summed up the attendees by saying, "There was no one focus because we have a big tent."
"A lot of frustrated people are being dismissed by this administration," added Thompson.
This group of women didn't see any sign of opposition to gun rights and none of them are opposed to gun ownership.
"There has to be some sort of control that needs to be worked out, though," said Thompson.
Police presence was everywhere, but they were very congenial and cooperative. National Guard troops were on top of vehicles and demonstrators handed up their cameras for snaps of the crowds.
At one point, Laurel Adams' shoe came untied.
"I didn't want to bend over or lean down to tie it for fear I'd get trampled," she said. "There was a sanitation truck ahead of us and I went up to the guy standing on the back and asked if I could put my foot on the lift so I could tie my shoe. He couldn't hear me and thought I wanted to get up on the lift. When I got him to understand what I wanted, he jumped down, kneeled in front of me and said to put my foot on this knee and he tied my shoe for me!"
The entire atmosphere was positive and friendly throughout their experience. Most people carried their own food and water for the days' event, but there were food trucks available and plenty of Porta Potty toilets. The women noted that most trash cans were full, but trash was stacked neatly beside them instead of thrown all over the grounds. Demonstration signs were left neatly stacked at various sites and in front of the Trump Hotel.
What does it mean to be a liberal, the three were asked.
Near responded, "I don't like to label myself. I focus on the facts, legislation and proposed legislation. That's why I like to explore the origin of things that are said. Michael Cameron Harris, of the now defunct Christian Times Newspaper, totally fabricated a story that ballots were being forged in a warehouse in Ohio for Hillary Clinton. It was totally fake, but people believed it. John Adams said, 'Facts are stubborn things. They are what they are.'"
Thompson does not consider herself a liberal either.
"The definition has changed. JFK was a liberal. People are heading for extremes and that's not good. When the left goes too far left, it becomes socialism then communism. When the right goes too far, it becomes fascism. I consider myself a moderate with liberal leanings. Depending on the issue, I can also lean very much to the right. I like Voltaire's quote, 'If they can make you believe absurdities, they can make you commit atrocities.'"
Adams said she is someone who wants to guarantee a seat at the table for all religions, races and genders. She doesn't want to preclude people's right based on someone else's bias.
"When I went to this march, I took people I know with me in spirit and I texted them from Washington," she said. "I took those with me who couldn't."
As the marchers left Washington, police officers, workers and other marchers all thanked them for coming.