Marshall students, faculty join Women’s March on West Virginia

Thirty-six Marshall students and faculty joined nearly 3,000 marchers Saturday, filing around the Capitol complex during the March on West Virginia, an event aimed to promote solidarity and combat the divisive rhetoric they believe has invaded America’s politics.

Kristen Lillvis, assistant English professor and director of graduate programs at Marshall, sponsored Marshall’s bus trip to the event. Lillvis said she was inspired to attend by last semester’s Campus Conversations series, which asked students to consider questions such as “What is civil discourse?” and “What role does the university play?” Lillvis was interested in today’s march because she wanted to give students the chance to take part in a civil, political conversation.

“I know a lot of people have been concerned — not with any one particular political party necessarily — but just with the rhetoric that was surrounding the election,” Lillvis said. “So I thought this was a good opportunity for us to do something about it and for us to show that we support women’s rights and trans rights and human rights at Marshall.”

Thirty-six Marshall students and faculty attended Saturday’s March on West Virginia. (Jared Casto | The Parthenon)

Throughout the crowd, marchers raised signs rejecting President Donald Trump, defending Planned Parenthood and the Affordable Care Act, and promoting equality among women, LGBTQ individuals and those with disabilities. As the crowd gathered, speakers expressed their frustration in the election results, lambasted decisions by the West Virginia Legislature to roll back reproductive rights and joined together in poetry and song.

Elise Gooding, sophomore dietetics major at Marshall, said the march in Charleston and the other marches across the globe are about supporting women and marginalized individuals in America who are feeling threatened by a Trump presidency. Gooding, who said she was speaking from an LGBTQ+ perspective, said events like these exist to show there are people who support the rights of LGBTQ+ individuals and other minorities.

“It helps you realize that, one, there are people like you out there and, two, if you do choose to accept that part of yourself, then you’re going to be supported and accepted and there are people fighting for your right to exist,” Gooding said. “And that’s a really powerful statement to be able to send to people who may be hiding in the closet and scared to accept who they are.”

Samantha Foresha, sophomore anthropology major, agreed with Gooding’s sentiment, offering that such events could help quell the fears of those who are uncertain about this new administration by showing minorities that they are not alone.

“You don’t have to be afraid every day of your life,” Foresha said. “It shows you there are actual people out there who care about you.”

A sister march of the March on Washington, D.C., organizers are reporting over 2,800 in attendance at the West Virginia event, exceeding the 1,300 RSVPs on the event’s Facebook page and dwarfing the initial goal of 100 attendees.

Women’s marches were scattered across the world today, with crowds estimated at half a million in D.C and Los Angeles, a quarter million in Chicago, and over a hundred thousand in Boston and Denver. Marches are also taking place in London, Mexico City and other global locations.

According to the The Washington Post, the D.C. marchers outnumbered Friday’s inaugural crowd, which was estimated at 250,000.

Jared Casto can be contacted at [email protected]