Sag Harbor resident Rosemary Barber, former East Hampton resident Emily Alcroft, and Sag Harbor residents Emily Weitz and Sarah Cohen in front of the Capital Building on Saturday, January 21. Kathryn G. Menu photo
By Kathryn G. Menu
At least 300 residents from the East End joined more than 500,000 protestors on Saturday in the Women’s March on Washington, D.C. The day of protests drew between 3.2 and 4.8 million people to sister marches across the United States and around the world, according to a group of data scientists attempting to catalog what has been billed as a historic human rights event.
Event organizers say the march was conceived to show solidarity around a host of women’s issues, from reproductive rights and the right to equal pay, but also to show support for LGBTQ rights, the rights of the disabled and immigrants, the need for healthcare, and environmental justice in the wake of the inauguration of President Donald Trump on Friday.
East End residents boarded buses in Bridgehampton, East Hampton, Sag Harbor, Southampton and Southold between 3:30 and 4:30 a.m. to make the trek to the rally, returning home close to midnight the same day.
“It was tremendous to be a part of,” said Canio’s Books co-owner Maryann Calendrille, a Sag Harbor resident who organized a North Fork Express bus to Washington with the help of Martha Potter of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of the South Fork. “The message of the day was ‘This is the beginning, the beginning of sustained momentum in a non-violent, peaceful way to advocate for all people.’”
Ms. Calendrille was heartened by the diversity of those who marched — the bus she was on had all ages represented, from teens to seniors.
“On the ground it was an intense feeling,” she said. “There were more people than I have ever been crammed in the middle of in my whole life. I will never forget the sight of waves of people, young and old, the creative signs and the really positive feeling everywhere you went. There were no upsets, there were no negative experiences in the crowd, there was not one arrest the entire day, which with between half a million and a million people in Washington, D.C., is quite a feat.”
One bus, organized by East End Women (and Others) for Change, from East Hampton boasted a toddler, a middle school student, college students, local business owners, and a minister. Buses were stocked with snacks, fruit, water, bagels, much of it donated by riders or those who could not attend the march, but wanted to support local participants.
Geraldine Merola, a three-year member of the Sag Harbor Volunteer Ambulance Corps, also came prepared with a big, bright orange bag of medical supplies, which she took out before the bus pulled into Union Station, one of two main drop-off points for marchers. Ms. Merola packed supplies into her jacket pockets including bandages, gloves, masks and tourniquets, supplies she said she wanted on hand in case she came across anyone in need of help.
“Big crowds of people who are walking long distances — people are motivated and they’re not always healthy or always able to do what they embark upon doing,” she said. “If something happens, the most helpless feeling in the world is not being able to fix it.”
The march was peaceful; by 6 p.m. Saturday, police reported no arrests, and Ms. Merola did not need to treat anyone throughout the course of the day, instead taking in the experience as a mother standing up for her right to affordable healthcare — something she feared she would lose if the Affordable Care Act was revoked under Mr. Trump’s presidency.
Bridgehampton resident Vanessa Rojano, 25, was also on a bus to the march.
“I feel like it’s definitely important for this coalition of people, these different groups that have been historically marginalized, to go Washington, D.C., at the same time,” she said. “I could have easily gone to New York City today, but we need to stick together.”
Amanda Mintz, a 17 year-old from Sag Harbor, participated in her first major march on Saturday.
“My mom is lesbian and I was marching with her for that, and he is anti-everything and everyone,” she said on the bus ride back to the East End. “It was my first major march, and I wanted to do something that my children will read in their history textbooks in the future. It was a powerful moment to be a part of something so global. It’s so important to fight for women’s rights in such a peaceful way. That was really incredible. I had tears in my eyes. It was so moving.”
Kelly Connaughton, a Noyac resident and co-founder of the Sag Harbor American Music Festival, attended the march with her mother-in-law, Dai Dayton, a Bridgehampton resident. The decision to march, she said, came almost immediately after Mr. Trump’s election.
“The minute I heard the march was happening, I knew I had to be there,” she said. “It was incredible. There were people of all ages and of all races — it was so empowering and inspirational. It gave me the energy and hope I needed to take back home with me and continue to fight for our rights.”
The challenge now, said Ms. Callendrille, is to keep the momentum found last Saturday moving forward into action. Kathryn Szoka, the co-owner of Canio’s Books, agreed.
“Resistance isn’t enough,” she said. “We must move forward and be a light for the rest of the country.” Ms. Szoka is a part of the Progressive East End Reformers, or PEER, a chapter of the New York Progressive Action Network (NYPAN). Working to make New York a leader among states when it comes to issues like health care, the minimum wage and mass incarceration, is one of the group’s focuses in the coming year, she said.
“Hope is also an option,” she added. “And I think we need to embrace that. It is not about pie in the sky. We have been through bad times as a country, and a world before. We will get through this … like Michael Moore said, “Get up, brush your teeth, make coffee, and then call Lee Zeldin’s office and let him know what you think.”