women's march 2017

Everyone is invited, but the focus is on women when Indivisible Common Ground – WNC leads a rally in Sylva Saturday.

Part of women’s marches around the world, the event runs from 11:30 a.m. until 1:30 p.m., mostly in Bridge Park.

“Last year we went to the march in Asheville, but this year there was not an event in Asheville,” said Betsy Swift, one of the Sylva event organizers. 

The next closest march this year was in Black Mountain, so Swift and her fellow organizers – Nilofer Couture, Joan Parks, Lauren Baxley and Jen Pearson – decided to do it themselves.

“Black Mountain is a small town, and we thought that if they could pull it off, so could we,” Swift said.

The official Women’s March is in Washington, D.C. and the smaller town marches are called “Sister Marches,” she said.

“We’ve decided our overall theme is engaged voters, how important it is to be engaged,” Swift said. “If you care about any issue, the most basic thing to do about it is to be an engaged voter.” Tables for voter registration will be set up at Bridge Park.

Following a gathering period featuring music from 11:30 a.m.–noon, speeches will follow, though the full slate of speakers is not yet nailed down.

“We’re going to ask the speakers to speak on various issues, such as reproductive rights, immigration and health care, and we’ve asked them to weave our theme of voting in,” Swift said.

The gathering then becomes a march, but will not involve any road closures, Swift said.

The group will travel down Railroad Avenue to Allen Street, then east on Mill Street’s sidewalks  to the intersection with Main Street. From there, they will continue on the sidewalks west to the courthouse fountain and back to Bridge Park.

“We’ve met with (Sylva police chief) Chris Hatton and he approved the route,” Swift said. “The police will be there, and they’re very supportive.”

Marchers will be carrying signs, but signs on sticks are not allowed.

Like many towns, Sylva has a stick ordinance.

“They take precautions about signs that can be used as weapons,” Swift said. “But lots of times people get real creative and have fun with the signs.”

The election of President Donald Trump was the impetus for the initial march in 2017, which saw large crowds around the world take to the streets.

“I’m pretty sure it was the biggest demonstration of any kind that has ever been held in Washington, D.C., and it was all around the world,” she said. “Its goal was to send a message to the new administration on their first day in office, that women’s rights are human rights. The values of inclusivity, dignity and respect for all people regardless of sex, gender identity, race, class or immigration status continue to undergird this annual event in our nation’s capital and at sister marches across the country and around the world.”

For more information, Swift can be reached at bswift4252@gmail.com.