The Women’s March on Washington that took place on Saturday was joined in solidarity by numerous other marches in cities across the country. The event’s website, womensmarch.com, referred to these as “Sister Marches.” One of those Sister Marches took place in Valparaiso in Porter County. It was a largely peaceful event, even when the participants encountered a pro-life group finishing its own demonstration. The local march was attended by numerous men and women from the surrounding area, including Rensselaer.
“I am originally from Indianapolis,” said Rensselaer citizen and marcher Emily Duran. “My ex-husband and I moved to Rensselaer in 1997 after college.”
When Duran saw a Facebook post about the Sister March happening in Valparaiso, she and a coworker decided they needed to go. It took place on Saturday afternoon at the Porter County Courthouse. The march began just after an hour-long demonstration by Porter County Right to Life, an outlet of the oldest and largest national pro-life organization in the country.
“Several of them stayed behind to talk with and watch the participants,” Duran said. “I was impressed by their commitment to their cause, and their demeanor during our event.”
Porter County Right to Life’s Executive Director Pat Tuttle also spoke about that interaction on her group’s official Facebook page.
“The marchers were true to their word and were respectful of us as as were of them,” she said. “Even though we disagree, we don’t have to be disagreeable!”
Duran also said police were present, keeping everyone safe and doing their jobs well. Overall, the experience was a positive one for her.
“Many men, women, and children rolled down their windows and gave thanks to our efforts,” she said. “Out of the hundreds of citizens I encountered that day, only one spouted hate, something about not being a democratic citizen. I shook it off. You know, you don't get much more democratic than by being informed, voting and participating.”
The Women’s March was known for voicing a wide variety of issues, and this Sister March was no exception. But it did receive substantial support.
“The biggest things that stood out to me about this March was the diversity of issues represented,” Duran said. “I was empowered by the overwhelming love and support from the community. Passengers in cars honked their horns and shouted words of encouragement.”
Duran has been passionate about her views on women’s rights for years, defining feminism as the idea that women should be equally protected and represented under law. She saw the march as a way to support this and many other views, some not strictly related to women.
“I became a feminist in college after learning about women's issues all over the world,” she said. “The Women's March on Washington championed many of those concerns: ending violence, environmental justice, rights for immigrants, people with disabilities, LGBTQIA, workers, civil rights, and reproductive rights.”
She was also protesting what she viewed as bias against women in society and government. This included the lack of equal pay for equal work, the lack of women in public office and the belief that women’s contributions to history are treated as a footnote in classroom texts.
“I marched because I don't want my daughters to have to worry about what they wear, or wonder if they asked for it, or be objectified, beaten or sexualized,” Duran said. “I want them to decide when they reproduce, and have access to birth control and services.”
On that note, she also doesn’t align herself with either of the two major political parties and feels the government itself is in need of an overhaul by a third party.
“I couldn't in good conscience vote for either the Republican or the Democrat candidate in this election,” she said.
The Women’s March has been seen by some as a direct response to the inauguration of President Donald Trump, instead of Hillary Clinton. But for Duran, it was about something bigger than one leader.
“A large portion of marchers focused on Trump, and I get it,” she said. “My hope is that it moves beyond who is President of the United States. Take that loss and turn it into action. The President works for all of the American people, and if that person doesn't live up to that task, then he or she should be held accountable.”
In the end, Duran and many others were doing what they felt necessary as citizens.
“As a feminist, when I see representatives and laws that threaten the progression of equality, it is my duty, as a citizen, to stand up in protest,” she said. “So I did.”