Standing up for their rights: Women’s issues, politics on minds of hundreds at Hilo rally

  • HOLLYN JOHNSON/Tribune-Herald The Stand Up for Your Rights march stretches down Kamehameha Avenue on Saturday in Hilo.
  • HOLLYN JOHNSON/Tribune-Herald Saturday's Stand Up for Your Rights event was one of about 250 marches and rallies planned to mark the one-year anniversary of the Women's March, an international political protest aimed at President Donald Trump after his inauguration.

A light rain drizzled over Hilo Bayfront on Saturday morning but that didn’t deter participants of the Stand Up For Your Rights march.

At least 500 people gathered at Lili‘uokalani Gardens for the 1-mile procession along Kamehameha Avenue.

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“Dump Trump,” read the homemade sign of one participant wearing an iconic pink pussyhat.

“Stand Up for Love” and “Still Resisting Hateful Politics,” other signs said. A chant of “We want a leader, not a fascist tweeter” soon emerged from the crowd, evoking some chuckles and honks from people driving by.

Last year, more than 600 women’s marches took place throughout the country, including in Hilo. People rallied in opposition to newly elected Donald Trump and as a statement against his rhetoric of the 2016 election cycle.

Marches this year packed more political punch: They were held on or around the one-year anniversary of Trump’s inauguration with a goal of “bringing our power to the polls” in order to “flip Congress” from Republican to Democrat in the 2018 midterm elections, said Maui resident Teresa Shook, founder of the Women’s March national movement, who spoke at the Hilo event. Shook also is slated to attend today’s march in West Hawaii.

“This year we’re going to get out the vote,” Shook told the Tribune-Herald. “We’re going to see that the people we have in leadership are representing our values, our beliefs and following what their constituents want. We’ll be working really hard to make sure the elected officials are held accountable, and if they’re not, (it’s) voting people in who will be accountable to their constituents.”

Hilo’s 2018 event was expanded beyond women’s issues. Participants also held signs related to immigration rights, the environment, health care laws, racial issues and LGBT issues. A handful of signs referenced Saturday’s federal government shutdown and several mentioned the #MeToo movement which encourages women to share experiences as victims of sexual misconduct on social media.

Renee Rabb of Keaau held a sign that said “Grab them by the midterms.” Rabb said she moved to Hawaii with her wife, Barbara Cigainero, this past summer to “get far away” from “being in the middle of (Trump’s) madness.”

Trump’s first year in office has been “more horrible than I ever could have imagined,” Rabb said.

“It’s a complete and utter disaster,” Rabb said. “We think it’s very important for all people to be able to show support for change in the United States and it’s critically important that people disagree with the current direction purported by the White House. We want them to get registered and vote this year so that we have a chance to change the makeup of Congress.”

Sharon and Hattie Gerrish, Hamakua residents who are Quakers, wore traditional Quaker clothing as a form of activism. They said Quakers are traditionally activists who “stand up for human rights for everyone” and the duo hoped their outfits would make a “visible statement.”

“With Trump, when people talk like he talks and we have to accept that like it’s the new normal, it’s just unacceptable,” Sharon Gerrish said.

“It’s obvious that (Trump’s) clearly not interested in what happens to America,” added participant Diane Fournier.

“And I think it will get worse if he stays in office. We hope this brings awareness and sort of, knowing you’re not alone in supporting this. It shows you, ‘This is solidarity’ and ‘This is what people stand for.’ And I think this will grow.”

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Nationally, about 250 marches and rallies were planned this year.

Email Kirsten Johnson at kjohnson@hawaiitribune-herald.com.