Alaska News

Thousands expected to participate in Women’s March events in Alaska

Not everyone can make it to the nation's capital Saturday for the Women's March on Washington, D.C., so organizers in Alaska are hoping to bring it to them.

Thousands are expected to gather around the state in at least 17 different cities, towns and villages, from places as large as Anchorage to as small as Seldovia, population 250.

All the events are linked to the larger Women's March movement, a grass-roots effort that stemmed as a reaction to the divisive presidential election. According to the national mission of the march, it is designed to "send a bold message to our new government on their first day in office, and to the world that women's rights are human rights."

Local organizers insist the marches are primarily unifying efforts to bring community members together. While organized by women, the marches are open to people of all genders, backgrounds and political beliefs.

Anchorage march co-organizer Sam McNelly said while the events are tied to the election — occurring just a day after Donald J. Trump was sworn into office — they are larger than simply pushing back against "one man."

"This is about a lot of issues that have been present in our communities for a while and have kind of hit this point where we think we're going to start losing ground," she said in a phone interview Friday. "It's a wake-up call and a lot of people are recognizing that now is the time to stand up and do something."

McNelly wasn't sure how many would attend the Anchorage march Saturday. More than 1,700 people have indicated they will attend, according to a Facebook event page.

McNelly said the Anchorage event is prepared for protesters, with a group of "peacekeepers" assigned to keep people calm and protected during the march.

Fairbanks co-organizer Jeannine Haney said the Interior Alaska march would also have people making sure others were safe.

"This is for our community, so if people are there and they get ugly, we're just going to invite them in," Haney said in a phone interview Friday. "We aren't going to debate things, but we will invite them in to listen to our speakers and warm up."

In Fairbanks, organizers met on Wednesday to make signs at a local cafe. On Friday snowplows were on the Delaney Park Strip in Anchorage, clearing snow and setting up portable toilets for the anticipated crowds.

In Unalakleet, a small group of women met ahead of Saturday to knit pink hats with cat ears — an unofficial emblem of the movement. Co-organizer Heather Fernstrom said she expects between 10 and 20 people to show up in Unalakleet, population 700. The group is planning to march about a mile in frigid Arctic conditions, from the Unalakleet Health Clinic to the AC grocery store. Saturday afternoon temperatures are expected to reach a high of -19 degrees Fahrenheit with light winds.

Fernstrom said people were still excited about coming out, even in the chilly weather.

"I just hope that people feel good about coming together and expressing some thoughts about what they hope for the world," she said Friday from Unalakleet.

Marches are scheduled all across Alaska at different times and locations. For a full listing, see the Women's March on Alaska website here.

The Anchorage march is set to begin at 10:30 a.m. Saturday near I Street at the Delaney Park Strip. After several speakers, people will march around the Park Strip between Ninth and 10th avenues and E and I streets. They will then head down F Street to Williwaw downtown, where indoor speakers will begin at noon and go until 2 p.m

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