Over 100 students, staff and community members marched from the Thompson Library to the Ohio Union Wednesday afternoon as part of A Day Without A Woman, a nationwide strike event organized by the Women’s March on Washington.
The march was part of a rally to mark International Women’s Day, celebrated Wednesday, and featured speakers advocating for an assortment of leftist political causes including expansion of abortion access, greater acceptance of transgender people’s role in society, gender and racial equity and expanded social welfare, including healthcare. The rally — which began shortly before 3:30 p.m. in front of Thompson and ended after 5 p.m. in the Union — followed an all-day series of talks, dubbed a “teach-in,” on related subjects held at Hale Hall. Over a dozen community and student organizations as well as five university departments partnered to organize the events.
A 20-minute walk across the Oval and down High Street to the Union followed, with chants of “Free abortion on demand, can we do it? Yes we can,” “Black lives matter,” and “From Palestine to Mexico, all the walls have got to go.”
“We saw the national call for a strike I think maybe two-and-a-half weeks ago, and immediately started emailing folks saying ‘what can you contribute, what should we do at OSU to make sure this day doesn’t go by without us coming together and talking about next steps,’” said Haley Swenson, a lecturer in women’s, gender and sexuality studies, and a primary organizer of the teach-in. “It was just amazing how many people wanted to do something and wanted to get on the move. Students were fantastic. I just think the current generation of student activists — they have so much experience now that they can put something together like this very quickly.”
The goal of the events, the organizers said, was to use the higher profile of the Women’s March on Washington, held Jan. 21 and spurring women’s marches in many American cities, to bring students and community members to progressive causes.
“We wanted to connect the momentum coming from the larger political platform to campus,” said Tess Pugsley, a staff member in women’s, gender and sexuality studies who also worked to organize the event. “We wanted students to have a place to come and discuss more radical topics and kind of build on the momentum from the women’s march to kind of expand what this day of feminism means to them, to include more topics, particularly topics for working women, topics internationally, topics for trans women, topics for all different ways in which women’s labor affects our local and global situation.”
The teach-in, which began at 9 a.m. and wrapped up just before the rally, was well-attended, with over one thousand visitors throughout that time and standing room being the only space available after mid-morning, said Swenson.
The rally began shortly after the end of the teach-in and consisted of numerous speakers advocating for raised minimum wage, equal treatment of homosexual and transgender people, and in favor of university divestment from companies deemed to be complicit in human rights violations. Signs opposing President Donald Trump as well as ones promoting the organization Socialist Alternative were prominent throughout the crowd.
Divestment, specifically from companies that do business with the Israeli Defense Forces in their role in the occupied Palestinian territories, proved to be a point of contention for some outside the protest.
“I’m perfectly pro-woman,” said Max Littman, a first-year in political science. “My problem is when they try to bring in other things to it and they disguise it and then they start going off (about) Palestine. I mean, Israel as a country is infinitely more pro-woman than any other country in the area. So I don’t understand how a pro-women’s march can be against Israel. And then they chant pro-gay stuff. Israel’s the most socially progressive, pro-gay country in the middle East, and it’s just absolutely backward that they’re against that.”
For the organizers, however, divestment and feminism went hand in hand.
“Divestment is obviously a feminist issue,” said Sarah Mamo, a fourth-year in women’s studies and African-American and African studies who is also an organizer for OSU Divest: Buckeyes for Human Rights. “When we talk about the displacement of Palestinians, we’re talking about the displacement of women, children and families. We’re talking about Palestinian women going into labor at checkpoints held by Israeli defense forces.”
The rally continued with an open-mic session hosted by Emily Shaw, an organizer with the Columbus branch of the International Socialist Organization.
The crowd was diverse, featuring both men and women of all ages, with even some high school students in attendance.
“I really want to help people who aren’t as privileged as I am,” said Greta Schreiber, a freshman at Upper Arlington High School. “And one of the ways I know we can do that is to come out and protest, march, and show our opposition to Trump.”