Hundreds (or more) from Chester Co. participate in marches

From Washington, D.C. to Philadelphia to West Chester, local voices heard

By Mike McGann, Editor, The Times

Just a handful of the attendees in Washington D.C. who rode buses from the Kennett Area Democrats, who brought more than 200 residents to the nation’s capital, Saturday.

Hundreds, possibly thousands, of Chester County residents participated in Saturday’s Women’s March — which morphed into events literally around the world, although the epicenter was in Washington D.C., and included events in Philadelphia, Lancaster, Newark, Del., and West Chester — all featuring the now famous pink knit hats, a tweak on Donald Trump’s comments that came out last year about his grabbing women by their genitalia.

At the main march in Washington, D.C. — so well attended that the entire march route was filled with people by midday — Chester County was well represented. Just by a token count, the Kennett Area Democrats in the southern part of the county were able to fill four full buses, about 215 people, with others from the area attending on their own. Hundreds more — some felt it was likely more than a thousand from Chester County —  attended, based on other sources.

West Chester Mayor (and newly elected State Representative) Carolyn Comitta speaks to the crowd during Saturday’s event in West Chester.

Although estimates of the Washington D.C. crowd were listed as at least 500,000, some reports suggested that the number could have been higher. The same is true of the event in Philadelphia, which drew an estimated 50,000. The events elsewhere in the immediate region were more modest — but part of a larger event that literally had millions marching around the world. The event in West Chester was more modest, as might be expected, but Mayor (and newly elected State Rep.) Carolyn Comitta said was pleased to be part of something greater around the world.

“(Saturday) women and girls (and men and boys!) marched and rallied across America and around the world!!,” Comitta said in a statement. “Today we are energized to resume our vital work to ensure that we, our families and all our neighbors are treated as our Pledge says, “with liberty and justice for all”. Onward and upward together!”

Lisa Longo, a member of the Phoenixville Board of Education, recounted her experience in attending the event in Philadelphia. She noted that the entire Benjamin Franklin Parkway was filled with people.

Sally Tallmadge Braffman of Kennett Square called the march in Washington D.C. “magical.”

“It was a little overwhelming,” said Longo, who also serves as the Treasurer for The Chester County Democratic Committee. “It was just a wall of people.”

The purpose and the point of the march remains a case of who you speak with, with some clearly arguing that the event was strictly about women’s rights and health care issues, while others saw it as a chance to denounce new President Donald Trump. Where there seemed to be agreement, though is that this was not a one-off event, but rather the spark for a new political movement in the United States and potentially around the world.

“I think there is concern about some of the cabinet picks, how things are going to impact women and children,” Longo said. “I thought it was a very pro active event, it was a very positive march.”

Sally Tallmadge Braffman of Kennett Square, a self-styled “veteran” of protest marches in the 1960s and 1970s said the march in DC might have been the most impactful — if not the biggest — such march she’s even attended.

“It was magical, so affirming,” she said.

Braffman recounted waiting some 90 minutes to get onto DC’s Metro — the city’s subway — to get downtown from nearby Virginia. She said folks shared stories, sang and chanted and there was a real sense of purpose.

“It was the first time since election night, that I was hopeful again,” she said.

Still, she notes, there remains a frustration that women still have to fight for health care, equal pay and truly equal status.

“I can’t believe that we still have to do it,” she said, noting she’s been fighting for women’s rights since she was 18. Braffman said she thought the march was not going to be a one-off event, but rather the start of a real movement — already meetings are planned to continue the effort, she said.

Longo agrees.

“This was the start of a conversation,” Longo said. “I hope that people involved understand that this has to be sustained over the years.

She also noted that she felt this movement would dovetail well with a growing effort to combat gerrymandering, which not just allows elected officials to hold extreme positions, but often encourages it, she said.

“I think it is the number one problem here in Pennsylvania,” she said. 

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