Hundreds of marchers took to the streets of downtown Fargo on Saturday, Jan. 20, carrying signs with messages like “Women’s rights are not up for grabs” and “Time’s Up!”
The date marked the second annual Women’s March, building on the activism that arose after President Donald Trump’s inauguration last year. This year, Fargo’s Women’s March was sponsored and coordinated by the local chapter of Indivisible. According to their website, Indivisible is a national group that takes “focused, local, and nonviolent action against regressive political agendas.”
Known as Indivisible FM, the local group took on the role of organizing the Women’s March after an outpouring of interest from community members. Two weeks ago, when Indivisible FM had not yet heard of anyone coordinating the event, they got to work. Despite the short notice and the possibility of bad weather, one of the organizers, Nicole Mattson, said that the event worked out great.
“We hope that this event inspires women to get more involved. There is nothing stopping you,” Mattson said.
With more than 700 people in attendance, the opening rally was overflowing with people. Held at the Fargo Civic Center, the rally had room for only 600 people inside, leaving many spilling out into the entryway and beyond. The enthusiasm was palpable as the march began, requiring the front of the group to pause while all the participants exited the event center. The marching route was short, just over half a mile, and covered part of downtown Fargo.
Members of the Fargo-Moorhead community, as well as the Concordia community, stated the importance of participating in events like the Women’s March.
“The political environment mandates this action. Voices should always be heard,” said Chris Carlson, adjunct professor of communication studies and theatre art at Concordia.
Deb Erickson, a local retired social worker, appreciated the opportunity to march alongside people who share her beliefs.
“It’s empowering to know I’m not the only one,” she said.
While this is easy to say when around other protestors of like minds, questions can arise when interlopers come into the mix. One participant, who wished to remain anonymous, was there to proclaim her counter-beliefs. Despite holding a sign that stated “All Lives Matter” and wearing an anti-abortion sweatshirt to an event where Planned Parenthood was gathering signatures, she was allowed space to march alongside everyone else.
This same grace was not given to self-proclaimed pro-white activist Peter Tefft who, when the protestors concluded their march downtown, became surrounded by protesters gathering in the open commons of the Civic Center chanting, “Hey Hey! Ho Ho! White Supremacy has to go!” and yelling “Go Home Pete!” Tefft retaliated by jokingly chanting along to the former statement and then turning to some protestors and stating simply, “You should be ashamed of yourself.”
Mattson disagreed with the actions of the crowd.
“We all have our first amendment rights. Even that is extended to Peter Tefft,” she said.
This pledge of inclusivity was evident in the ages of the marchers, with participants as young as 3-year-old Sadie Gibs walking alongside grandmothers. Sadie’s mother, Victoria Gibs, explained why she brought her daughter to the march.
“I don’t want her to grow up thinking she doesn’t have a voice or a say in her own fate,” she said.
Current Minnesota State University-Moorhead student Clara Derby, who volunteered with Planned Parenthood to gather signatures at this year’s event, agrees.
“The march gives everyone a platform to contribute,” she said.
Dr. Amy Watkin, director of First-Year Experience and associate professor of English at Concordia, felt it was important to show up as a woman, mother, and part of the Concordia community.
“It is a place to learn, talk, and grow in your ideas,” Watkin said.
Despite the march’s name, many men, including Cobber alumnus Erik Hatlestad, also took part. Hatlestad offers a piece of advice for current Cobbers overwhelmed with the idea of social activism.
“Just dive in headfirst and go for it,” he said. “There is no way to make a positive change or see yourself grow unless you get in the game.”