Over 200 people gathered at the Denton County Courthouse on the Square Saturday morning to rally for the fourth annual National Women’s March, which advocates for women’s rights and other causes, like immigration reform and LGBTQ+ rights.
While the Women’s March did not include any actual marching, several guest speakers, activists and politicians came to address the crowd. Jennifer Lane, an organizer for the march and a UNT College of Music professor, compared the attitude of this year’s march to past years’.
“The energy is absolutely fantastic,” Lane said. “The first year, I was in Washington, but I saw that [the Denton march] was a huge crowd and it was almost like a memorial service. In 2018 and this year, it’s an election year, so people are focused on that.”
Actress Libby Villari encouraged the crowd to take to the polls for the 2020 presidential election, emphasizing voting’s significance as a vehicle for change.
“This march was created as a response to the results of the election of 2016,” Villari said in her address to the crowd. “I look out at you and see a lot of enthusiastic young faces who may not have been old enough to vote in 2016, but you’re old enough now and in 2020 you have the opportunity to not only cast your first vote but to perhaps make it the most consequential vote of your lifetime. We will reverse the results of 2016 and save democracy.”
The presidential election might be a major focus for activists, but politicians such as Brandon Birmingham, who serves as a felony district judge at the Dallas County Criminal Courthouse and is running for the Texas Supreme Court, took to the courthouse steps to remind the crowd of state elections.
“Please bring people to the polls and when you do, make sure they reflect our values,” Birmingham said to the crowd. “I’m very proud to stand in solidarity here with you and I want to tell you to vote all the way down the ticket. There’s a reason they got rid of straight-ticket voting, but we can undo that.”
Denton resident Liz Knoop, who said she is no stranger to activism, said she is participating in activism again not just for women’s rights, but other issues as well.
“It’s women’s issues, but it’s also other issues regarding our democracy,” Knoop said. “A lot of us are getting involved again because we’re worried about where our country is going. As women, we feel very strongly about a lot of the issues out there right now. It’s really a dual purpose at this point: the democracy and women’s rights.”
UNT College of Music graduate Elizabeth Durrant said this was her first march and she was excited for the chance to participate.
“It’s really nice to be out here and be with other like-minded people who are fighting for our rights,” Durrant said. “I feel like there’s really good energy in the crowd and I feel a lot of support here and drive to change things.”
Durrant said she plans to vote in the 2020 presidential election to further advocate for the rights she supported at the march.
“[Voting] is very important to me as a black woman,” Durrant said. “People have fought, bled and died for my right to vote, so it’s important for me to exercise that right to vote. I’m just hoping for more positive change in the country to go toward a better direction.”
After the main events of the march, the Disability Inclusion Society invited participants to register to vote.
“2020 marks the 100th anniversary of a woman’s right to vote,” Villari said. “Are we done? No, because we still deserve equal wages, we deserve equal representation and we deserve to be the deciders of our reproductive organs. Feminist causes are good for everybody everywhere.”