Several hundred women, men and children gathered at Founders’ Park Saturday to march for women’s, LGBTQ and refugees’ rights, Black Lives Matter, religious freedom and against President Donald J. Trump and the Dakota Access Pipeline.
Before marching around the park and through downtown Johnson City, protesters assembled to hear a few speeches from guest speakers.
Among the speakers included representatives from the Socialist Network, Be a Good Human Tri-Cities, PFLAG Tri-Cities and anti-Dakota Access Pipeline activists.
The march, organized by 14-year-old Dobyns-Bennett High School student Hannah Phillips, was a way for people in the community to continue to speak out against President Trump and come together.
“I want people to know that there are other supportive and influential people who are there for them in their political efforts,” she said.
Phillips was inspired by the Women’s March in Jonesborough on Jan. 21 and wanted to keep the movement going, so she got together with a few friends and started inviting people to the event page she created on Facebook.
Through friends inviting friends and word of mouth, over 700 people showed interest in the event and over 300 RSVP’ed.
Although she is young, Phillips has decided to be true to herself and share her ideas and beliefs with those around her.
“Online forums have helped me successfully connect with other people who share the same beliefs as me,” she said. “It’s helped me practice talking about how I think with others and has effectively taught me how to debate with others who disagree.”
Phillips’ describes her family as conservative, Christian Republicans.
“Now my entire family knows about what I’m standing for, and I think in some strange way they’re proud I’m doing something,” she said.
“They just don’t agree with my views, but it’s better to be open and revolutionary than to hide your true colors.”
Before the event, Phillips and others helping her organize the march received threats of counter-protests and attacks with water balloons filled with paint.
While there was a small group of anti-abortion counter-protesters in attendance, the march was incident free.
Lauren Clark was among the Pro-Lifers and brought along her five children. They all, except for the baby asleep in the stroller, carried signs advocating for a fetus’ right to life.
“I’m against the pro-choice movement of the Women’s March movement,” Clark said. “I also don’t think some of the language used by Women’s Marchers helps further their cause.”
Katie Schumaker and Wilma Glass did not know Clark before Saturday, but they decided to stand together when all three of them showed up for the same cause.
“I don’t agree with everything Trump says or does, but I voted for him and I’m standing by that,” Schumaker said.
Glass and Schumaker both added, “A baby has a right to life and God makes every baby.”
Phillips said she hasn’t thought about what she’s going to do next, but for others to keep an eye out for a Facebook page to help her plan and discuss upcoming events and issues.