High Energy Santa Barbara Women’s March

By Robert Bernstein

The Women’s March started in January 2017 with the inauguration of Trump. Even though Trump is gone, his Supreme Court legacy continues to take rights away from women.

Sunday January 22, 2023 should have been a celebration of the 50th anniversary of the 1973 decision Roe v Wade, which gave American women control over their reproductive rights. Instead, it was a day to protest the Republican-packed Supreme Court taking those rights away. Quite a change for the party that once initiated the Equal Rights Amendment in 1940.

Here are my photos of the hundreds of women and men who turned out for this rally and march in Santa Barbara. And here are my videos of the event.

As the crowd gathered, World Dance for Humanity performed and enlisted crowd members to join in the dancing.

One of the first speakers was a woman Aida from Iran who spoke about the horrific situation for women in Iran. Since the 1979 revolution the country has been run by Islamist extremists who give little freedom to women.

In September 2022, the Iranian “morality police” murdered Mahsa Amini for allegedly not covering herself properly with a hijab. Aida noted that when she was young she proudly wore a hijab as a sign of being a grown up woman. But she became angered when wearing a hijab became a matter of force rather than a matter of personal choice.

And that was the theme of many of the speakers: Personal choice. And the irony that the Republican party that once claimed to be the party of personal freedom is the party that is taking away personal rights in the US.

The situation in Iran also shows what happens when a country loses its separation of religion and government. It is the beginning of losing many other freedoms. Again, the Republican Party wants to end this separation.

The New York Times just did a feature story “How Montana Took a Hard Right Turn Toward Christian Nationalism”. From that article:

“If you want to live here,” Karla Johnson, a chapter president of the Montana Federation of Republican Women, said, “be a Christian.”

Growing up in Iran, Aida never had the opportunity to speak out. She showed great courage to get up on stage and speak to a crowd for the first time ever at this rally. Here is my video of her complete speech.

Many others in the crowd supported freedom in Iran, supporting the revolution that began with the murder of Mahsa Amini. Supporting the tens of thousands of protesters in Iran who keep on with their struggle. Despite thousands being arrested, hundreds being killed, including by brutal methods like hanging.

My friend Marian Shapiro stood with her reminder of what it was like to live before Roe v Wade. A time when thousands of American women suffered and died because abortion was not legal. When it did become legal, Marian worked at clinics that provided women’s health care in Kansas. One of the doctors she worked with was George Tiller. Dr Tiller was murdered in 2009 by a religious fanatic in the US.

Here Aida sat in the front row of the crowd. If you look carefully you can see she wears a yellow and blue pin in solidarity with the people of Ukraine. Another place where women have been targeted for violence, including sexual violence. In that case by Putin.

Here is a wider shot of the crowd in De La Guerra Plaza.

You may remember Paula Lopez as a KEYT-TV reporter. On this occasion she was speaking up about Roe.

After her was Kristin Flickinger, Executive Director at Pacific Pride Foundation. Many of us have heard of the 1969 Stonewall Riot in New York on behalf of gay rights. What we learned from her talk that was new for some of us: The protest was partly about it being illegal to wear clothes that did not match your gender! Women literally could be arrested if they were not wearing at least three pieces of female attire. Really. Likewise for men in drag. Flickinger said that people could be forced to strip to prove it. It is all about control, she said.

Next up was Elsa Granados of Standing Together to End Sexual Assault (STESA) (formerly known as the Rape Crisis Center). She said part of the job of STESA is to “bust myths”. For example, the myth that it is a woman’s fault if she wears certain clothes or has a drink and is then sexually assaulted. No, being sexually assaulted means that another person decided that they had a right to violate your body.

She talked about the dozen or more states that have banned abortion in all cases, including in cases of rape or incest. She noted that making those exceptions is hardly any better! A sexual assault survivor is then forced to endure new trauma to prove that she is entitled to these exceptions. She also noted that sexual assault goes with other forms of oppression.

Her message was simple: Abortion is a human right.

Up next was Assembly Member Gregg Hart who spoke about the mass gun killing in Monterey Park during the Lunar New Year celebration. He talked of the need for meaningful gun control, to ban such weapons of mass killing.

He also talked about the progress in women entering government. And the need for more equality. Especially pay equality. The pay gap for all women is 78%, but for Latina women it is worse. They make just 43% of what a man would make.

Charlotte Gullap-Moore is a Trustee for Santa Barbara City College. She broadened the issues of justice to include housing and health care.

Luz Reyes-Martín wears many hats in our community, most recently being elected to the Goleta City Council. But she spoke as the Vice President of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund.

She talked about the secondary effects of the bans being enabled by the Supreme Court. In states with these new abortion bans, doctors are being forced to hire lawyers before providing basic health care to women. These laws are so broad and so extreme that basic health care is endangered. Many Republican leaders are also trying to get a nationwide ban on medication abortion.

Luz emphasized the need to end the stigma of abortion. “Abortion is healthcare.”

Speaking of ending stigma, this woman courageously called for decriminalizing sex work. Sex work is legal and regulated in most civilized countries. This protects women and public health of men and women.

With that, the crowd moved out onto State Street and marched up the street for several blocks.

One chant heard during the march was “Women. Life. Freedom.” which has become the slogan of the Iran Revolution in progress now. You can hear it in this short video.

Here is another video of the marchers on their way back down State Street.

Hundreds of thousands of Americans marched in over 200 events in 46 states for this Women’s March. The theme: “Bigger than Roe”. Whether it is in Iran, Ukraine or the US. This is bigger than Roe. People will never give up their rights. It may take years of persistent fighting. But justice eventually will prevail. That was the message of these events that took place across America from Honolulu to Hartford.


Written by sbrobert

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