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Marching for Equality

English teachers protest in Washington

Patty Van Spankeren

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In response to the election of President Donald Trump, gender inequality, and a plethora of other social justice issues, women around the globe flooded the streets to show solidarity for one another and to voice their frustrations to institutions that they feel have neglected their rights.

But, by far, the largest gathering of women marched in Washington D.C., crowding the National Mall with posters and a hunger for change.

Two members of Carmel’s faculty traveled to D.C. to participate in this historic event: English teachers Patty Van Spankeren and Hadley Hinshaw.

“I left on Friday night from Evanston on a bus with a friend, who is a Carmel graduate I’ve known since kindergarten,” Van Spankeren said, “We drove over night and got to D.C. at eight in the morning.”

Hinshaw drove to the march with her mother and a former Carmel student, Claire Zupec.

“They’re both passionate about women’s rights, and it was pretty cool to have such a multi-generational affair,” Hinshaw said.

Even though the crowds at their destination exceeded 500,000 people, both women described their experiences with the flocks of protesters fondly.

“It was the most polite crowd I’ve ever been in. I would have been uncomfortable in any other sort of crowd. All the police, marshals, and volunteers were so friendly,” Van Spankeren said. “Even the locals were friendly too. They would honk their car horns and cheer for the protesters, and some went out of their way to give protesters directions.”

Given the multitude of reasons for attending the march, clashing beliefs could have created some tension within the crowd, but few problems, if any, seemed to arise among protesters.

“There was a sense of solidarity. We’re all here for the same reason, and we respect each other,” Van Spankeren said, “People had such different concerns and different reasons for attending the march, and some were in disagreement with each other, but we were all there supporting each other’s right to voice our opinions.”

Hinshaw, on the other hand, described the crowds as “awesome, in every sense of the word,” but also agreed with Van Spankeren’s description of the crowd’s solidarity.

Even though Hinshaw wished for even more diversity at the march, she said that the crowd was not at all homogenous.

“There were pro-life feminist groups, Catholic nuns, Muslim families, LGBTQ individuals, Black Lives Matter protesters, celebrities, and working class women,” Hinshaw said. “We marched in peaceful solidarity, bridging gaps to communicate with a strong voice.”

The magnitude and importance of the crowd hit Hinshaw even before she stepped into the solidarity filling the American Mall.

“Literally every rest stop had women in pink hats filling their gas tanks, using the restrooms, buying coffee,” Hinshaw said, “So it wasn’t a surprise that the Metro train line was over 1,000 people long. We waited for hours for the train, and of course the train car was standing room only.”

Despite the overwhelming size of the crowd, Hinshaw managed to get within earshot of the stage where celebrities, activists, and prominent political figures gave speeches to the crowds of those marching.

“We got stuck about half a mile from the stage. We could just make out the second large screen, which had Michael Moore speaking when we arrived. I couldn’t hear much, just little snippets of the speakers,” Hinshaw said.

Unfortunately, Van Spankeren could not reach the stage at all.

“We tried to get to the screen, but when we realized it wouldn’t happen, we just got stuck,” Van Spankeren said. “That part was three and a half hours of not being able to move.”

Democracy at its finest isn’t just voting. Of course, I did that. That’s the bare minimum. True democracy is using our rights and freedoms, in my case, the First Amendment, to hold our representatives accountable.”

— Hinshaw

Despite the crowds of people and distance from speakers, both teachers agreed that the march was an uplifting and amazing experience for all the women, men, and children involved. Hinshaw described the experience as fulfilling a democratic duty.

“Democracy at its finest isn’t just voting. Of course, I did that. That’s the bare minimum. True democracy is using our rights and freedoms, in my case, the First Amendment, to hold our representatives accountable,” Hinshaw said, “When we mobilize and protest, we show our elected representatives that they work for us, the voters, not for special interests or for their own pockets.”

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3 Comments

3 Responses to “Marching for Equality”

  1. Lisa Kane on January 31st, 2017 3:27 pm

    I am proud to say that our family has had the pleasure to learn under both these inspiring women (and more than once!) I am so thankful for their representation for the multitude issues including those that don’t extend across all the different belief systems. Such an important message to show our young people and such an important message to convey to our young women: The group came together in tolerance of differences but in solidarity that all should have rights that are respected.

    So much more can be accomplished when people are willing to find the common ground rather than insisting a single path solution to our problems.

    Thank you to these educators for the privilege of knowing them. Thank you for publishing this important story!

    [Reply]

  2. Susan Walker on January 31st, 2017 4:05 pm

    And these two teachers are Catholic? Then why are they wearing vile-named pro-abortion hats on their heads? They should be ashamed of themselves!!! This “march” was 100% sponsored by NARAL and Planned Parenthood with a pro-abortion agenda as one of their main points of emphasis. No Catholic in good conscience can support such an immoral platform. When did Carmel stop being Catholic and stop promoting the gospel of Life? I really cannot believe Carmel is “celebrating” this madness instead of celebrating the joy of the even larger and more peaceful March for Life – both in Chicago and DC that Carmel students, alumni and chaperones attended.

    [Reply]

  3. Marcia Meyer on February 1st, 2017 5:40 pm

    Thanks for highlighting our staff using their freedom of speech.
    M

    [Reply]

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