By Heather Martin
On Saturday April 28th thousands of Americans raised their voices for women’s rights in rallies across the country, backed by UniteWomen.org. On this same day, hundreds stood behind Sherry Lear and her co-chair Nanette Harrison, by gathering at Pershing Square in downtown Los Angeles to speak up for women’s issues.
Sherry Lear is a civil litigator who has been active in various movements throughout her lifetime. She reached the tipping point regarding women’s rights while listening to office discourse about Sandra Fluke – the Georgetown law student who spoke in favor of the student insurance plan covering birth control and was in turn called a “slut” by Rush Limbaugh. The office conversation she overheard suggested that Limbaugh had been unfairly vilified. Mrs. Lear says her reaction led her to volunteer to organize the Los Angeles rally and provide public relations for it, which turned into a tremendous undertaking, at which point she joined forces with Nanette Harrison who became her co-chair.
Hundreds of women and men were in attendance at the event, expressing their support for women’s rights and voicing their own unique statements with pre-printed and handmade signs. The sentiment was strong, bold and playful, just like the rally itself.
Alexandra Tweten, a 24-year old supporter of women’s rights carried a sign that read: ‘If men could get pregnant, abortion would be a sacrament.’ Alexandra “attended the rally to show my opposition for the record number of anti-choice bills introduced in Congress in the last year. I am really perplexed as to why Republicans feel the need to spend so much effort on limiting abortion access when they should be working on more important things, like fixing the economy. I’m glad that so many people turned out in LA and across the country. We showed that women are not going to sit idly by while they chip away at our rights.”
Danielle Schneider, a writer and comedian, “attended the rally because as a human being only I have the right to make decisions about my body and my future. People are threatening to take those rights away and I will not stay silent.”
Sarah Carton-Wirth stood in a united front with her Aunt Laura and her mother Diane, each one carrying a distinctive handmade sign. Their signs were extremely popular, as multiple people knelt or stood in front of them with cameras to snap a photo. Sarah was at the rally because “It’s important that we stand together and show that we, as women, will not go back to the days of wire hangers and having our fathers and/or husbands sign off on any major purchase we make. I marched so that the hard work of the women who have marched before me will not be in vain, and so that in the future, my children will not have to march again to regain these same rights that men have been afforded for years. Equality.”
Other attendees included veteran feminist Jan Tucker, Co-President of the San Fernando Valley/Northeast Los Angeles Chapter, NOW and State Director of the California League of Latin American Citizens: “Last year’s Slutwalk in Los Angeles in June and Saturday’s Unite Against the War Against Women rallies are emblematic of a new wave of feminism, led by young feminist activists, much like the tidal waves that rejuvenated our great movement for freedom and equality following the Webster decision in 1989 and the Anita Hill Clarence Thomas hearings in 1991. The new blood that’s flowing into our movement is proof positive that Sisterhood is Powerful. Venceremos!”
Speakers included the following trailblazers:
Before the marching began, Speaker and author Zoe Nicholson, who has been very active with the National Organization for Women (NOW) and promoting the ERA, kicked it off by reciting her powerful poem, “Because I Breathe, You May not Touch Me.” The marching commenced with a walk around Pershing Square led by Suffragists holding the sign “United Against the War on Women,” followed by energetic samba drummers, dancers and excitement from the crowd.
Sherry Lear did express disappointment, however, that main stream media refused to cover their rally and most of the other events that happened across the country, including rallies with thousands in attendance. She said “It is almost impossible to fight back and protect women’s rights unless our voices are heard loud and clear.”
But Mrs. Lear ends with her hopes. “This Rally is just a beginning for a new wave of feminism and female empowerment, where women will put aside their differences, even embrace and respect them, and stand together to fight back against the offensive, condescending and degrading ways that women are being treated by right way extremists who would have rights that we have fought for — and in many cases thought we had won — stripped away.”
*Visit UniteWomen.org to find out about future events.