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Second Women’s March 2020 held in South Bend to honor life of Ruth Bader Ginsburg

| Monday, October 19, 2020

For the past three years, millions — typically clad in pink hats — have taken to the streets in support of the women’s rights movement in January. But this year, the Women’s March organization decided to host a second protest on Oct. 17.

While the first Women’s March was held the day after President Donald Trump’s inauguration in 2017, this year’s Saturday’s march was organized to both honor late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s legacy and to oppose Trump’s choice to replace her with former Notre Dame law professor, Judge Amy Coney Barrett.

“We’re holding socially distant actions across the country to send an unmistakable message about the fierce opposition to Trump and his agenda, including his attempt to fill Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s seat,”  the Women’s March website said.

As a result, 425 demonstrations took place across the nation. In Washington, D.C., protestors marched from Freedom Plaza to the National Mall. In South Bend, some 200 people — including former Notre Dame women’s basketball coach Muffet McGraw and former South Bend mayor Pete Buttigieg’s mother Anne Montgomery — congregated in Howard Park in a rally organized by local attorney Jennifer VanderVeen.

Participants wore masks — some even emblazoned with colorful words such as “Vote!” — and spread out across the park’s festival area.

“I thought we had a good turnout — especially considering the fact that our COVID numbers are up in the area — and we still had people who were willing to come out,” VanderVeen said.

Courtesy of Jennifer VanderVeen
Pat Hackett, candidate for Indiana’s 2nd Congressional District seat, spoke at a Women’s March held in South Bend Saturday.

Despite only having three weeks to assemble the rally, VanderVeen said she was inspired to rise to the challenge due to her desire for political change and Ginsburg’s death.

“I was losing a lot of sleep right after Justice Ginsburg passed, and it really did rattle all of us in the legal community when she passed,” VanderVeen said. “I am just coming off of board service on a national organization, so it was just kind of the right time, I felt, for me to jump up and do something and be politically active.”

VanderVeen said she hoped the rally encouraged people to vote.

“I really do feel that part of what happened in 2016 was voter turnout, because everyone saw the polls and thought we all knew what was going to happen. And I think people stayed at home or people voted third party, and that that led to the situation we’re currently in,”  VanderVeen said. “It was really just trying to get people to realize that every vote does count. And that even though Indiana is so solidly red, if everyone voted, that could change.”

Several rally attendees carried signs decrying Trump’s move to replace Ginsburg with Barrett. Though Republicans have defended that choice by highlighting the fact that Barrett is a woman, Pat Hackett, a Democrat running for election to the House to represent Indiana’s 2nd Congressional District, gave a speech stating that Barrett’s gender alone does not qualify her for the job, as her “patriarchal perspective” and judicial record indicates an opposition to issues like abortion rights and LGBTQ marriage rights.

“Let’s be clear, the fact that this is a woman being appointed to the Supreme Court doesn’t make a difference because the agenda is the same,” Hackett said.

For VanderVeen, however, one of the main issues behind Coney Barrett’s nomination is not the person, but rather the context.

“It wasn’t about her. It was about the process,” VanderVeen said. “It’s about the fact that a group of senators who stalled a nomination four years ago, all of whom gave lengthy quotes at that time defending themselves and saying, ‘If this happens again, in four years, you can quote us on it,’ are now turning around and doing this. That is really what most people are galvanized around. I think it would be happening, almost no matter who [Trump] put up.”

With the presidential election taking place in only 17 days, VanderVeen had a message to the women of the Notre Dame community: Go vote.

“Many of you are going to be voting in your first presidential election,” VanderVeen said. “It’s not a privilege to be taken lightly. If you go back and look at the history of women’s suffrage in this country and what women went through to secure that right for us to vote, it’s incumbent upon all of us to do that every time and exercise that right because of how hard they fought for us to have it.”

In previous years, students from the tri-campus community have attended the Women’s March in Washington, D.C in January. However, with the ongoing pandemic and recent spike in COVID-19 cases, junior Cate Prather, the executive planner for the Women’s March 2020, said it was unlikely the group would be able to participate.

“With anything going on in the world outside and on campus, the safety of the community in our participants are at the forefront of our mind,” Prather said. “It’s looking like right now it is likely not going to happen due to the concern about bringing an outbreak back or getting the help of our participants.”

Nevertheless, Prather praised the Women’s March organization and their aim to give women a voice through a protest that has gained traction throughout the nation — an ideal that has ignited inspiration within students.

“I think that marches like the Women’s March and ideas that are nationalized, and communicated through media outlets are able to reach back even here to South Bend in the Midwest and students are able to feel invigorated and inspired by all these people who they stand in solidarity with to be able to create action here on campus,” Prather said.

To illustrate her point, Prather said that the experience of attending the D.C. Women’s March in 2019 served to inspire her to voice her beliefs on campus.

“It certainly has empowered me to come back to Notre Dame to stand up for and use my voice more for issues that I care about knowing that I have a vast network of support around,” Prather said

Student body vice president, senior Sarah Galbenski, echoed Prather’s beliefs on the march’s inspirational effects, noting that the movement’s strength “derives from its intersectionality.”

“Especially in light of our country’s well overdue reckoning with racial injustice, the women’s rights movement must strive to be intersectional and fight for the freedoms of all women regardless of race, sexual orientation or socioeconomic status,” Galbenski said.

Though to some the Women’s March movement has been equated to a specific set of beliefs, Prather said that, just like women from across the world, participants have different opinions and beliefs.

“There’s certainly a strong movement for pro-choice … with how people interpret women’s rights and women’s reproductive rights,” Prather said. “But there are also people there who are pro-life and pro-women. And there’s a way for that to intersect in this march, and there’s a way to find common ground and to help support women in general. It certainly takes both sides to reach an agreement and to reach what hopefully will be a better way forward in the future.”

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