The temperature may have been low on Saturday, but enthusiasm was high at River Park for the Women’s March in Hamilton. Over 200 participants marched down Main Street in Hamilton to express their views on a variety of issues from women’s rights to climate change to immigration. Many also used the platform to express their distaste for the current administration.
Jill Deppell of Hamilton and Kierstin Schmitt of Corvallis led the crowd with chants of “Our body, our choice” and “Say it loud, say it clear, immigrants are welcome here.”
There has been a strong contingent of support in the Bitterroot for the Women’s March for solidarity since the first one was held in the state capital a few years ago. That participation was organized and facilitated by several women, including Merle Loman, who relied heavily on social media to get the word out.
This year, there was a conflict between the march in Helena and an important cultural event at the Hamilton Performing Arts Center. That’s when Corrine Gantt, president of the Ravalli County Democratic Central Committee, got the idea to hold a local march to accommodate those who chose to attend the local community event but were anguished over missing the march.
Gantt rounded up the necessary permits and also arranged for a couple of speakers to kick off the local march.
Monica Tranel, candidate for Public Service Commission, kicked off the rally by telling the crowd that “we need more women in positions of power.” Tranel has specialized in regulatory issues before the PSC for nearly 20 years and said she recently faced an all-male board who told her that “climate change is not real and that wind turbines cause cancer.” Experiences like this spurred her to run for office.
Former history teacher and committed Democrat Jan Abel also addressed the crowd. “They say the size of the crowd in DC was smaller than previous years, but look at the size of our crowd here for our Women’s March in Hamilton!” Abel went on to encourage people to continue in their efforts to effect change. “Look how many women ran for the Senate and the House and won in 2018! We can make a difference!”
Gantt said most of the impetus for the Women’s March to date was presented as non-partisan, but since the Democratic Central Committee was sponsoring the event this year and had gotten the permits for this parade and the insurance, “You pretty much can’t call it non-partisan now,” Gantt said.