The day after the 2016 presidential election, Chelsea Miller started looking for flights to Washington D.C. Not for the inauguration, but instead to attend a march of comparable size that was already in the works for the next day.
“I felt compelled to do something. I was researching for three days, I was so determined,” said Miller.
On Donald Trump’s first day as President, January 21, 2017, many discouraged voters will come together at the National Mall for the Women’s March on Washington, an event that has drawn interest from nearly two million people to date. It’s not just for women, and it’s not just a demonstration against Trump’s words and actions that offended some minorities throughout the election; it’s billed as a civil rights march for all human rights and equality.
“Yes, we’re unhappy, but more than that we’re getting out and doing something because it matters,” said Miller. “A lot of these policies are going to be dangerous to a lot of people, not just women.”
Washington D.C seemed like less of an option the more she looked. Miller, who transferred from Madison Area Technical College to UW-Milwaukee and will begin her junior year in UWM’s psychology program, knew that if she went to the march she would need to be back for the start of the semester days later. Plus, hotels, if they were still available, were being booked for 800 dollars a night.
“That’s when I noticed that other sister marches were being planned in other cities, and I thought I could jump in.”
Madison seemed the most logical choice, as she wanted it to mirror Washington’s march at Wisconsin’s capitol. She didn’t expect it to attract interest so fast.
“I created the Facebook page and invited 19 people, I had no idea it was going to blow up the way it did overnight; that’s when I reached out for help.”
A frequent political activist, she had never been on the organizing side before. She immediately began growing her steering committee that now consists of Josette Belant, Thom Hemeleski and Ophelia Bailly. Some of them were friends and some complete strangers who reached out to help after seeing how fast the march was growing. Help started coming in, in other forms as well. Hemeleski began the Go Fund Me page to help raise money for large rally necessities like permits and speaker systems.
“The National Organization for Women threw us a fundraiser, we were very grateful to have teamed up with them,” said Miller.
Just one week away, the Women’s March on Madison’s Facebook page already says 7.2 thousand people will crowd the city streets to march from the Library Mall to the Capitol building, and their GoFundMe page has almost raised their full goal of 5,000 dollars.
Speakers are lined up to start at 1:00 pm at the Capitol building- Milwaukee Senator Lena Taylor, Madison District 10 Alderman Maurice S. Cheeks, Sagashus Levingston – a Madison mother of six and founder of the “Infamous Mothers,” a movement that aims to empower moms and dispel stereotypes. There will also be a local middle school teacher who is an LGBTQ youth advocate, and some of her spoken word poetry students.
As for people who disapprove, Miller says they’re expected with any event, but she’s more concerned with making a statement about the future.
“The people he has put in his cabinet, like a known white supremacist, or putting a climate change denier in there. These are actually going to have real effects on people’s lives and on the planet.”
The march is expected to go from 12pm to 3pm at the Library Mall in Madison. For information on Ride Share or other details on the event, check the Facebook page: Women’s March on Madison.
Miller is excited to see how a rally that started with an idea and 19 Facebook friends will turn out January 21, and she hopes the newly-inaugurated president will take notice.
“I’ve never taken on or started anything like this before, but it’s been a great, meaningful experience.”