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Large contingent headed for Women's March

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Kelsi Dew, from left, Anna Dixon, Amber Wigent and Pearl Wigent are among the 165 people leaving Greenville in three buses this morning to participant in the Women's March in Washington D.C.

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Ginger Livingston

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Greenville residents say today’s Women’s March is a jumping off point for continuing efforts to ensure all people are treated with respect and equality.

Organizers describe the march, expected to draw tens of thousands to Washington, D.C., as a message to President Donald Trump and Congress that women's rights are human rights. Participants said they also will stand up for other groups they believe were marginalized during the recent presidential campaign.

Ann Harrington is among 165 people leaving Greenville at 4 a.m. today to participate in the march. Dozens of others from Greenville and eastern North Carolina are carpooling to the event which begins at 10 a.m. with a rally, followed by a march at 1 p.m.

Harrington is an advocate for allowing woman to join the Catholic priesthood. She was ordained in 2014 in the Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests and is now the priest of the Free Spirit Inclusive Catholic Community.

"I want to do this because of the tone that is coming from the president-elect and his people,” she said. “People march on Washington as an expression of their citizenship and our belief that we are a democracy and belief in the democratic process, and we have faith in our country to do what is right," she said. "I am going to send that message to the new administration, that we are going to be watching and we're going to be caring a lot about what is going to happen the next several years."

The Gross family, Michael, an East Carolina University professor; Katie, a special needs teacher; and Jessica, a high school junior, also are taking the bus.

"My family and I want to stand with those that are concerned, even anxious about some of the new policies this president has indicated he wants to enact," Gross said.

Before his election the new president repeatedly exhibited behavior that was disrespectful and dismissive of women, Gross said.

"We are hoping he can reassure us," Gross said. "That he will defend the rights of women and minorities and all American people whatever their gender, ethnicity, religious beliefs and, frankly, their income."

Amber Wigent, Kelsi Dew and Katherine Johnson organized the Greenville bus trip.

It started when plans by Wigent and several others to stay in a hotel were quashed by a hike in prices, Wigent said. She kept hearing from more people who wanted to go with her group. She eventually contacted a bus company and connected with Dew, who also was trying to organize a trip, through social media.

People who couldn't help but wanted to support the trip paid for college students. When the Washington, D.C., metro system's website went down last week, a number of participants couldn't secure metro passes. Dew said 20 passes were donated to the group.

Along with issues such as reproductive rights and access to affordable health care and birth control, marchers will be supporting LGBTQ protections, religious freedom, equality for minorities and other areas of human rights.

"It's powerful because you might have 100 people marching for different things, but they are marching together and that's a powerful thing," Dew said.

Anna Dixon, her husband, John, daughter, Ayla, 6, and son Dakota, 5, are taking the bus.

Fourteen members of Dixon's extended family have endured sexual abuse, she said. That includes Dixon, who was 4 when she was assaulted.

Dixon and her family are marching to say sexual violence and abuse won't be tolerated.

"I plan to do my best to have (my daughter) grow up in a world that treats her respectfully and have my son grow up to be a man who treats women respectively," she said.

Harrington said while people say the march is a message to Trump and his administration, she sees it as a complement to his goal of "draining the swamp."

"I hope my time in Washington, D.C., will help Donald Trump drain the swamp of corruption, lack of civility and meanness that hinders our democratic process by bringing the feminine energies, that both men and women have, of community-building, hospitality, care-giving and reverencing life," Harrington said. "My heart's desire is to help build a more just society."

Wigent, Dew and Dixon said they hope people don't confuse today's rally and march with Friday's protests, which resulted in broken windows, a vandalized limousine and Washington police deploying "crowd-dispersing" sprays and other crowd control tactics.

"It's very important that people understand this is an organized and peaceful event," Wigent said. There is a worry there may be people who try to create unrest to distract from the march's message of peace and equality, she said.

"In our nervous systems, violence tends to eclipse peace and we need to shift that. We need to pay just as much attention if not more attention on all the peaceful action being taken and the positive action being taken than these acts of violence," Dixon said.

Along with the national march, state-based and community rallies are being held across the nation. A Women's Solidarity Rally will begin at noon today on the steps of the Pitt County Courthouse.

"We want to make sure everybody has an opportunity to be heard," said local organizer Amy Bright.

"We are as women and marginalized communities under attack right now and we are not going to tolerate these attacks on our rights," Bright said.

The organization of state and local marches shows the desire people have to put down their screens and connect in person with friends and community, Dixon said.

"All these sister marches are part of that desire to connect in person," she said.

"A lot of people want to do something, they want to be part of something and feel an energy and get out there, but not everyone can for various reasons," Wigent said. "I want to go to the March in Washington and be in the presence of those people, I want to take their energy home with me and make some change locally."

Contact Ginger Livingston at glivingston@reflector.com or 252-329-9570. Follow her on Twitter @GingerLGDR.

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