Women's March wants to maintain momentum despite rifts

New York, IA, USAUpdated: Jan 18, 2019, 09:24 PM IST
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File photo. Photograph:(Reuters)

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In New York, two rallies will take place in Manhattan, in separate neighbourhoods -- which could impact attendance and weaken the message.

As organisers of the Women's March gear up for their third major day of protest on Saturday across the United States, there is one big question -- how many people will answer the call for a #WomensWave?

Two New Yorkers, who attended a sign-making workshop ahead of the big rally, talked to AFP about why they are marching again this year, despite controversies at the heart of the movement:

'Wake-up call'

Sharon Lin, a doctor and mother of two, will march with her children on Saturday in the Big Apple. 

She says she remains convinced of the need to show up, and not be a silent bystander in the middle of the political firestorm sparked two years ago when President Donald Trump took office.

That "wake-up call," as she calls it, prompted a major life change: she and her husband gave up their jobs and a home in "comfortable suburbia" in San Francisco in August for a new life in New York.

"We moved to New York so I could expose my kids to a more global environment," Lin told AFP -- a decision that was "directly linked to Trump."

While Lin believes that turnout will be lower on Saturday than in the past two years, perhaps because a record number of women were elected to Congress in the November midterms, she still thinks participation is key.

"I think the momentum needs to keep going, at least until the next election" in 2020, when Trump will face re-election, says Lin, who will act as a volunteer on Saturday to make sure the march goes off smoothly.

Optimism despite divisions

Round Three of the Women's March could see sagging enthusiasm, given the various issues that have tainted the movement in recent months.

Accusations of anti-Semitism have rattled the national movement's top brass, and despite repeated denials, a parallel group known as March On was created.

In New York, two rallies will take place in Manhattan, in separate neighbourhoods -- which could impact attendance and weaken the message.

Lin says the divisions don't really matter to her as the "original intent" is intact: "The masses coming together and saying, 'We don't like the way our country is going.'"

But Jean Laupus -- a 59-year-old self-described "concerned citizen" who wants to see better public schools and access to contraception -- fears the "schism" at the heart of the Women's March will be an issue.

"It is making people have to choose," she told AFP. However, she hopes to bridge the gap and make it to both rallies, proudly, in her pink "pussy hat" -- the de facto symbol of the movement.

She is also getting her signs ready for Saturday.

No matter how many people show up, both Lin and Laupus say they are optimistic about the future. 

And they are particularly impressed with 29-year-old progressive New York lawmaker Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the youngest woman ever elected to Congress.

"She represents a breath of fresh air but also a sense of humanity -- understanding more about people who represent a greater part of society," Laupus says.

For Lin, Trump is "giving us a gift: the doors are opening for women who would never thought of entering politics."