The voices of women and men angry about oppression rang out loudly in the bitterly cold air around Congress Park Saturday.
For the third year in a row women and supporters of social justice causes gathered at different locations throughout the United States to draw attention to women’s rights issues, and to stand against bigotry aimed at people based on race, ethnicity, gender and sexual orientation.
Despite single digit temperatures and a bracing wind, approximately 400 people attended this year’s rally and march down Broadway in Saratoga Springs. A similarly-large rally and march were also held in Albany.
City resident Ellen Egger-Aimone organized the Saratoga Springs edition of this year’s march. She said she was pleased with the turnout despite the impending snow storm Saturday.
“This is Saratoga, we’re going to have snow,” Egger-Aimone said nonchalantly.
Egger-Aimone said people remain outraged at gender discrimination, threats to women’s rights such as abortion as well as divisive policies supported by President Donald Trump, such as his call for a border wall funding and his willingness shutdown the government in an effort to get it.
Mentions of Trump were everywhere at the rally, including a large, round inflatable rooster with hair meant to caricature Trump’s famous coif. People took pictures next to the inflatable Trump-rooster, some carrying signs calling for impeachment or attacking Trump’s “Access Hollywood” comments about grabbing women by the genitals.
“It’s time for a change. It’s nothing against men, but it’s time for the pendulum to swing the other way,” Egger-Aimone said.
Sara Khan, a Muslim-American from California attending her third-year at Albany Medical College, said she remains traumatized from hearing Trump’s comments about women.
“[Men like Trump] can do anything. What’s worse is women went on the news and said ‘men will be men’, ‘that’s just locker-room talk,’ said Khan, of the rationalizing.
“I come from a family of really empowered women,” Khan said. “My mother is a doctor. My sister is a doctor, and I, hopefully, am soon to be a doctor. I come from a family where men empower women, my Dad is the single most important driver of the success of my Mom, me and my sister in this country. I refuse to believe that this is the opinion we have of men in this country, and that this is how they should treat us.”
“Let’s raise the bar,” Khan concluded.
Patrick Nelson, a former announced Democratic party primary candidate for the 21st congressional district, attended the rally. As icicles were forming on his red beard, Nelson, who’s also a New York state Democratic Party representative from Saratoga Springs, criticized his one-time possible congressional opponent U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-Willsboro, for not attending the rally.
“To be fair, she doesn’t represent Saratoga Springs, although she loves to come here to raise money,” Nelson said. “I will say she’s been all about this new movement to recruit women to run in the Republican Party. But none of the things she talks about support women’s issues.”
“She still believes the government in Washington D.C. should be in control of women’s health decisions, not women themselves,” Nelson said.
Jasmine Smith, who spoke at the rally, spoke out against the racism she has felt living in society “as a brown person.” Many people fail to realize the racism that exists throughout society, Smith said, and that failure continues to alienate her and others who feel oppressed.
“When you ask me or any brown person ‘How bad is it around here?’ that is when I look at you and all of humanity with disbelief — that you can’t possibly not see what I see,” Smith said.
U.S. Rep. Paul Tonko, D-Amsterdam, spoke last at the rally as members of the robust crowd were clambering to begin the march as they stood in the cold. Tonko cheered them on calling on the crowd to shout, “this is what democracy looks like!”