As thousands of demonstrators joined the Women’s March on Washington on Saturday, a similar march in far western Kentucky drew hundreds of people from diverse backgrounds to Murray. Ebony Clark and Taylor Inman bring this audio postcard:
More than 700 people marched from the Murray State University campus towards downtown with signs ranging from ‘Clean Water’ to ‘Black Lives Matter’ in the ‘March for Equality and Social Justice.’ Energy rose from the diverse crowd as they made their way to Murray’s court square for the rally concluding the march.
Among demonstrators was Paducah resident Dana O’Key who said Obama’s health care saved her mother’s life.
“ The ACA saved my mother’s life. She had enrolled and then about two weeks later she was diagnosed with stage two breast cancer. She’s self-employed so she has no company insurance she could have relied on. Had it not been for that she would have been in over 200,000 dollars in medical debt so we are grateful to Obama,” said O’Key.
Chuck Paisley Sr. is a retired labor union member taking a stand against Kentucky’s recent “Right-to-Work” legislation.
“Right to work. Not no good for the families. Person can’t make a good wage. Even restaurant workers can’t make a good wage. It’s not good for em’... We’re not for the right to work, we’re for the working people,” said Paisley.
Stay-at-home mom Charlotte Lackey said she hopes the march will catch the government’s attention.
“I believe that America should really stand together instead of being separated like they have been….Well maybe we’ll get the government’s attention and they’ll stop being a bigot,” says Lackey.
Mayfield resident and Chicago native Yeseniah Huizar said she participated in the march to try to make an impact on rural communities in the area.
“I hope to bring more awareness especially in these small towns where, let’s be honest, sadly we see more racism than maybe in other huge areas where there’s more diversity. So I think that by just marching for other people to see from their homes or wherever they are will bring awareness of what’s happening and others will realize that we have to stick together,” says Huizar.
Murray resident Nicholas Newsome held a sign with a raised fist symbolizing feminism.
“I’m more than happy and proud to stand up for everybody of all different types whether they’re like me or not like me. The feminist fist, to me that represents my wife and daughter,” says Newsome.
Those who were unable to participate in the march waited to meet demonstrators downtown with flags and banners of their own. Media spokesperson Tim Johns said the numbers were well over what they anticipated.
“We’re really excited. We had a bigger turnout than expected. I think the number is now at 700, not including those who waited up here at the square.” Johns said.
Maysoon Khatib, Murray State Professor and daughter of Muslim immigrants spoke during the rally describing her experiences growing up.
“I needed to fit in, you know what I’m talking about? Where did that fear of letting people know where I’m from come from?” Khatib said. “I’ll tell you where it came from: as a child, during the Iranian hostage crisis, we were trying yellow ribbons around trees at school. And I overheard two of my favorite teachers talking about ‘those barbarian Muslims’, those ‘savage Arabs’. And my knees began to shake. I went home and told my immigrant mother, and as an immigrant she was scared,” says Khatib.
Khatib went on later in her speech to discuss the inequalities of women and people of color in America as well.
“Our fathers brought forth to this continent, a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men...all men are created equal. I’m going to re-write history today and tell you that all men, all women, all marginalized groups, all people of color are included in that.”
Addressing the crowd in a speech, Khatib said she used to tell people she was Mexican as a child because she was too scared to tell them that she was a Muslim-American.
“And during the presidential debates when [Trump] said ‘Muslims should report stuff.’... I’m reporting stuff right now,” said Khatib.
Other speakers like Brian Clardy criticized President Trump, but went on to say that he will pray for him.
“As a Christian I will pray for President Trump and his national security team, but I will hold them accountable,” Clardy said. “Not out of hatred or resentment, but because I love my country too much not to.”
Speaker Jeff Wiggins denounced the recently passed Right-to-Work legislation, advocating for stronger unions.
“Right-to-Work is nothing less than free loading. Imagine if I went to join your country club, I wanted to play golf, I wanted to be in your diner...be part of your club, but didn’t pay any dues. How far do you think that would go for the rich one percent?” Wiggins said.
The speakers emphasized that they weren’t protesting anything, but instead standing in solidarity with marginalized groups and encouraged the marchers in attendance to not settle with one march.
“We can not stop now, we cannot go home kick back and assume that we’ve done enough. We cannot assume that one march, one rally is adequate. We cannot give up on our hope for the future. Organize, don’t mourn. Those are the words I leave you with today,” said Speaker Peter Murphy.
Demonstrators chanted ‘This is What Democracy Looks Like’, ‘Education Not Deportation’, ‘Refugees are Welcome Here’, and ‘Love Trumps Hate’ while marching to the town square in a conservative state that voted overwhelmingly for Donald Trump.