We needed to march

January 29, 2019

When official organizers cancelled the Women’s March in Cincinnati, local socialist groups came together quickly and organized a rally in a week’s time. One of the people who helped pull the event together, Ashley Theissen, provides this report.

ABOUT 200 people turned out for a rally in Cincinnati on January 19 co-hosted by three local socialist groups — Socialist Alternative (SA), Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) and the International Socialist Organization (ISO) — after the original Women’s March was cancelled the week before.

Although it was a cold and rainy day, people came together under the Purple People Bridge at Sawyer Point on the Ohio River to chant, talk and hear speeches from three speakers, one from each socialist organization.

Later, more than 100 people marched to Fountain Square and back, with chants including “Free abortion on demand, can we do it? Yes, we can!” and “We are unstoppable, another world is possible!”

Gathering for the 2019 Women's March in Cincinnati
Gathering for the 2019 Women's March in Cincinnati

Jessica Witczak, a Cincinnati resident, explained why she came to the march: “The official women’s march was cancelled, but we still feel like we needed to be here. The cultural climate in our country right now is really unfortunate and disappointing, and that’s why we had to come. I feel like if we don’t do anything, we are complicit in what’s happening.”

AN EXHILARATED crowd responded to the rally speakers, cheering and booing along with the speakers’ recounting of our victories and defeats since Donald Trump was elected, and the hope we have for fighting for a world we want to live in.

Christine Uebel Niemeier, who spoke on behalf of DSA, called out for radical change in how we think of feminism: “Women, workers, all those oppressed must stand up and say that the feminism we’re fighting for, the emancipation we’re fighting for, the world we’re fighting for is not one where we seek to simply “lean in” and win individual duels against rampant workplace prejudices that affect us all... socialist feminism is the future.”

ISO member Ashley Theissen argued:

The people at the top intentionally try to degrade and divide us along racial, gendered, religious, and other lines because they know the real force and power we have when we stand together in solidarity. These attacks are part of a larger strategy to divide and conquer us. We need to understand this divide and conquer strategy, and build robust, democratic movements based on solidarity to fight back against their violence, hate, and exploitation.

Julz Bressler of Socialist Alternative closed out the three speeches with an argument for independent working-class organizing: “We must build independent organizations that rely on the strength of working people to fight for our rights. We need a socialist feminist movement organized against the two-party system that bows to capitalism’s inhumane thirst for profit, and we must fight for a just, egalitarian society and a socialist world.”

All three speakers emphasized the need for an ongoing fight located in new, democratic organs of struggle. The three organizations announced a socialist feminist townhall that they were co-hosting on January 23, to start this process locally beyond the borders of individual organizations, and to take on local battles such as anti-abortion legislation in Ohio and Kentucky.

The socialist organizers also put out an open call for other organizations in the city to table at the rally, and the Ohio Poor People’s campaign took this opportunity to advertise their Water Justice Field Hearing taking place on February 2.

While the turnout was lower than was expected at the original march, many attendees on Facebook expressed wonder that the socialist groups were able to put together a successful event in just one week.

The excitement, solidarity and determination to fight for a better future was felt by all attendees. Organized socialists in Cincinnati led the way for the Women’s March in 2019.

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