Billings marchers will join others around state, world

Helena

Big Sky Rising

An estimated 10,000 people gathered last year in Helena, the day after President Donald Trump’s inauguration, for the Women’s March on Montana.

Women’s marches are being organized across the state and around the world this Saturday, a year after huge crowds turned out last January on the day after President Donald Trump’s inauguration.

State Sen. Jen Gross, D-Billings, a co-coordinator of the Montana Women’s March Billings, said last year’s Women’s March on Montana, which drew an estimated 10,000 people to Helena, was powerfully exciting.

“Folks are still talking about it,” she said. “People in Billings are still talking about how empowering that was to go up to Helena with their daughters.”

But if anything, she said, the tumultuous events of the past year have people feeling even more excited, even more eager to get involved in activities that promote equality, racial justice and women’s rights.

That’s why communities all over the state are organizing their own women’s marches this year, Gross said. So far, Saturday marches, rallies and other events are scheduled in Billings, Browning, Butte, Bozeman, Great Falls, Helena, Missoula and Kalispell.

The march was organized by individuals and people from a variety of organizations who came together to keep the spirit of last year’s marches alive, to carry forward the activism that sprouted spontaneously in the wake of Trump’s election.

“It’s a little nebulous, and that’s just a result of it being very organic and very grassroots,” Gross said.

Depending on which Facebook page you visit, there are even different names for the Billings march, though the full title seems to be “Rise Together Montana Women’s March: Billings 2018,” and the working theme is “Rise together for democracy.”

There are sponsors of the march, though. Western Native Voice, Crowley Fleck, Billings Education Association, Zonta Club of Billings and Northern Plains Resource Council each donated $250, and Bishop Heenan & Davies donated $100. The funds, along with donations raised through GoFundMe, will cover costs incurred to host the march. Any funds remaining after expenses are paid will be given to the YWCA of Billings.

If you want to volunteer to help during the march, go here. If you want to support the march financially, visit this GoFundMe page.

The Billings march is scheduled for 10 a.m. to noon, with people meeting at 10 at Second Avenue North and North 31st Street, next to the parking lot of the former Good Earth Market. Members of the Runsabove family will kick off the event with a Native American song and prayer.

Then, Native American ribbon-skirt dancers will lead the march down Second Avenue to North 20th Street, where it will turn left and continue to North Park, where there will be a short rally with speakers, music and celebration.

Marci McLean

Marci McLean

The keynote speaker will be Marci McLean, a Blackfeet tribal member and executive director of Western Native Voice in Billings, a nonprofit that works to strengthen Native American communities on reservations and in cities across Montana.

Other speakers will be state Sen. Margie MacDonald, D-Billings; Billings activist Gwen Kircher; Kassie Runsabove, a Native women health advocate; state Rep. Jessica Karjala, D-Billings; state House candidate Amelia Marquez; West High student Allison Johnson; and Kathleen O’Donnell, a member of the U.S. Army National Guard.

All events will be outside, so participants are reminded to dress accordingly. As of Tuesday evening, forecasts for Saturday were for a high of 15 degrees. For people gathering near the Good Earth, the closest parking garage is at 3912 Third Ave. N., and carpooling is recommended.

To get ready for the rally, there will be a sign-making party Friday at 5 p.m. at the First Congregational Church, 310 N. 27th St.

Gross said organizers of the Billings march “made a very intentional effort to make sure that women of color have a very strong presence at the event,” with the result that four of the eight speakers at North Park will be women of color.

Organizers also want people to know that the event is nonpartisan and all-inclusive, so participants are asked not to bring signs endorsing or condemning particular political parties.

“However, that doesn’t mean nonpolitical,” Gross said, acknowledging the presence of state legislators and political candidates. “That means talking about issues that impact our lives and mean something to us.”

Also on Saturday morning, organizers of statewide rallies and other interested parties are holding a telephone press conference at 9 a.m. to announce the launch of #MeTooMontana.

In a press release, Rebecca Weston, coordinator of Missoula Rises Community Conversations, said the #MeTooMontana coalition “will mark this anniversary by using our collective anger and growing confidence to demand justice for all women who have experienced sexual assault, harassment, and discrimination.”

During the press conference, Weston said, “we will be calling on our elected leaders to condemn President Donald Trump’s acknowledged history of sexual assault as well as make specific and meaningful commitments to combat sexual violence in Montana — specifically against Native women, transgender women, and rural and low-income women.”

Here is a list of women’s march events planned around the state:

♦ Butte: Nasty Women Chili Feed, 6:30 to 9 p.m., Carpenters Union, 156 W. Granite St.

♦ Gallatin and Park counties: Women’s March and Anniversary Celebration, 11:45 a.m. to 3 p.m., gathering at the MSU parking lot between 11th and 13th on College Street.

♦ Great Falls Women’s March, noon to 2 p.m., Gibson Park Band Shell to the YWCA.

♦ Helena Area Women’s March: Rising Together for Democracy, 11 a.m., Sixth Avenue on the far north side of the Capitol complex.

♦ Missoula: Women’s March 2018, noon to 2:30 p.m., Circle Square to Caras Park.

♦ Kalispell Women’s March: Rising Together for Democracy, noon to 2 p.m., Depot Park.

♦ Browning Community March: 1 p.m., from the Blackfeet Community College parking lot to the Museum of the Plains Indians.

A list being compiled by the Women’s Alliance on Facebook has details on hundreds of marches across the country and around the world, and it continues to grow.

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