Women's march

A woman and her daughter sit with a sign that reads "A woman's place is in the house and the senate" and clap for a speaker during the Woman's March held at City Hall in downtown Athens, Georgia on Saturday, Oct. 17, 2020. (Photo/SophieYaeger, syaeger@randb.com)

After the inauguration of President Donald Trump in January 2017, tens of thousands of women around the world took to the streets to participate in the maiden voyage of the Women’s March. The march became an annual event in the U.S., drawing out energetic crowds in support of women’s rights.

Nearly four years later, a crowd of roughly 60 gathered in front of Athens City Hall, socially distant and wearing masks, in support of the same cause.

Among the attendees was Nicole Gustafson, an Athens resident whose young daughter stood with her during the event holding a sign that said “Girls just wanna have FUNdamental rights!”

“We definitely support this cause,” said Gustafson, who motioned to her daughter. “It’s important to me that she be represented in government.”

The Athens Women’s Rally for Unity was the first event it’s kind for the city of Athens, according to co-organizer Rhonda Helms.

While the Women’s March is typically an annual event in January, the decision to organize a rally before the November election was intentional, co-organizer Iva King said.

The event was one of over 425 socially distant or virtual events that were planned across the country by the Women’s March movement.

“The purpose of the rally being now is to make people understand how important this election is,” King said.

King said the event was deliberately made about unity and positivity, to combat the growing partisanship in the country. A few speakers said they were told to keep their messages as hopeful and uplifting as possible.

“But I’m feeling more rage against the machine than kumbaya these days,” said Dawn Johnson, a candidate for State Senate District 27. 

Each of the ten speakers delivered a short three to four minute message with a similar subtext: women are going to be the driving force of change in the coming years.

“It’s time for women to take over,” said Mokah-Jasmine Johnson, a congressional candidate for Georgia and co-founder of the Athens Anti-Discrimination Movement.  

“I will keep this positive, but there are many men in political positions that need to go,” Johnson said.

Between every three or four speakers was a brief intermission of drum music provided by the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Athens and chants led by the event’s Master of Ceremonies, Erin Podvin.

Podvin sported a shirt with a picture of the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and the words, “not fragile like a flower, fragile like a bomb.”

The rally also paid tribute to Justice Ginsburg by inviting the crowd to take part in a 27 second plank to commemorate the 27 years Justice Ginsburg served on the bench.

“There’s a Ruth Bader Ginsburg quote I love,” said Helms, “It goes ‘women belong in all places where decisions are being made’ and it’s true.”

At the close of the rally, Helms and King prompted the audience to remind at least three people to vote in the upcoming election.

“Hopefully all goes smoothly, but be following along [with the movement] because we may need to be doing something on Nov. 4,” King said.

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