Saturday, 17 February 2018

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G Government Relations

Women urged to vote, seek office at anniversary Orlando Women's March

By Ryan Gillespie, For Orlando Sentinel, On 24 January 2018, Read Original

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Beverly Alig’s fight for women’s rights and equality began in high school when she was eager to pursue a career in architecture.

But she said she was never allowed to enroll in mechanical drawing and was redirected to home economics, along with other girls in her school. The feeling stayed with her decades later and she carried it as she marched Sunday for issues such as the gender wage gap, workplace harassment and protection for immigrants.

“That was the first thing that made me go, ‘what?’ ” said Alig, of Orlando. “It didn’t matter that I climbed trees as a little girl, but when I went through puberty and became a woman, it changed.”

She rallied with a raucous crowd of progressive advocates at Lake Eola Park Sunday on the first anniversary of the Women’s March. Organizers estimate about 10,000 attended.

The Orlando rally was a part of Women’s March Florida’s statewide “Day of Action,” which also gathered donations for Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and the Florida Keys, all of which were pounded by hurricanes last year.

Attendees heard impassioned pleas from women calling for restoring felon’s voting rights, environmental protection and in defense of immigrants in the country on the Deferred Action Childhood Arrivals Act, or DACA. But the message of the day was for women to run for office, vote and support progressive candidates and issues.

State Rep. Amy Mercado, D-Orlando, urged the audience to register to vote and to support women who are running for office, stating to “make the blue wave a blue wave of women.”

“We need to bust those doors wide open,” Mercado said. “Forget glass ceilings, rush the doors.”

Crowds toting signs with messages such as “This is not ovary acting,” “Still here, still nasty,” and “Resist Trump,” filled the band shell at the Walt Disney Amphitheater to capacity and spilled out of the perimeter and into grassy areas nearby.

The event kicked off at 11 a.m. emceed by Anna Eskamani, a Democratic candidate for state House District 47. Eskamani introduced eight other Democrats running for office, including Winter Park businessman Chris King who is running for governor and Nancy Soderberg, a former United Nations ambassador running for U.S. House District 6.

Soderberg, who served under President Bill Clinton, said if women flood the polls in 2018’s midterm elections, more Democratic candidates will win.

“We march today for the women who get paid $.80 to the man’s $1,” Soderberg declared. “We march today to make sure women are 50 percent of the elected officials instead of 20 percent.”

After more than two hours of speeches, the massive crowd embarked on a march around the lake, chanting variations of “we’re the women,” and “hear me roar.” The crowd wrapped nearly all the way around Lake Eola.

Natali Camarano also marched in the first Orlando Women’s March last year, which was held a day after President Donald Trump’s inauguration.

Her sign urged women to vote and harkened back to 2010 when Democrats took heavy congressional losses during Barack Obama’s first term.

“My biggest concern is people won’t vote,” Camarano said. “There’s all this passion, but will they do the work that makes change?”

Debbie Erlick and four of her friends drove from Summerfield, north of The Villages, to march because she opposed the first year of Trump’s presidency and hoped changes would be made to support women, minorities and the LGBT community.

“We used to be a country where people would be welcomed and [they] loved to come here because there are so many opportunities,” Erlick said. “But now they can’t. Families are being separated and it’s just horrible what’s going on.”

Eskamani closed with a message of optimism.

“We came here today because we’re marching for a better tomorrow, but we have so much work to do when tomorrow comes,” Eskamani said. “Today we march [and] tomorrow we flood the offices of our elected officials...and of course, go to the polls.”