Demonstrations, Protests, Marches  Part of Being an American Citizen

by Paula McKibben   Wendy Chappell-Dick has been attending protest marches since before she was born. Her first was in 1969 when her mother, Bobbie Chappell was expecting her. According to Wendy, she has attended a protest against every president since 1969.
She recently attended two events – the Women’s March in Washington, D.C., and the protest at Standing Ridge, North Dakota.
   The Women’s March was the first time she actually arranged the transportation. She obtained two buses and was accompanied by four cars for the trip. The cost was $100 for the bus and metro passes in D.C. She filled the first bus quickly and established a waiting list, filling a second bus within a week. Besides people from the immediate area who boarded the buses here, the bus included a group from Dayton, a group, from Elkart, Indiana, and a group from eastern Ohio, all who were picked up in Wadsworth, Ohio. Altogether, she figures there were 111 people in her group, 10 of which were college students and 20 who were high school students. Some people who couldn’t attend donated to help others to afford the trip.
   Discussing the march with her this day at Common Grounds were Douglas Nester, high school student; Jacob Regier, BU student; Libby Hostetler, retired educator; and Sue Metheney, retired nurse.
   The Women’s March was a world wide event, being held in 673 cities, attracting approximately 4 million marchers. Organizers for the event indicated that it was not intended to be a protest, but an event, a march, to demonstrate support for women’s rights. Metheney claimed the mantra to be, “Women’s rights are human rights and human rights are women’s rights.”
   It was supposed to be a parade, but by the time everyone had arrived, it was so crowded that no one could move. Hostetler said that it was so crowded that they never got to where it was supposed to start, never even seeing the stage, other than on a teletron.  Chappell-Dick concurred. Nose-to-nose with others in the crowd, she never really moved anywhere.
   However, Hostetler commented that people didn’t push; they were cooperative and polite. She said, “The march was so civil. There are different ways of demonstrating.” And this was a good way.
   Metheney, who came in a wheelchair, agreed. Because of her disability that day, she was directed to a different location. Metheney said that the group she was with hugged, sang and clapped. “More things united us than divided us.”
   Metheney continued that the march had a cleansing effect because, according to Chappell-Dick , the election was so negative that people in the United States have been feeling disconnected. The march, though, focused on human connections, on reconnecting; Clinton and Trump were not even mentioned.
   There were, of course, a couple of hitches in the trip. First of all, once they left the buses, they could not return until it was time to go. So they were on their own for 11-12 hours. Also, there were porta potties left over from inauguration day, but Nester indicated that if you saw a row of 10 of them, maybe only three were usable.
   Also, persons needed to carry food and drink with them because there were food trucks, but it was difficult to move in the crowd to get to them. Regier said that he survived on two protein bars during the event.
   Then, of course, there was the march itself. Since it was too crowded to actually march, Chappell-Dick believes they expanded the program to keep everyone occupied. She said that she stood there for five hours listening to speakers, fascinated by the number of different perspectives presented.
   On the whole, however, the crowd was concerned with the impression it made to the world. There were many trash receptacles, every one of them filled. So people piled additional trash beside the receptacles, making cleanup somewhat simpler for D.C. By Sunday morning, Hostetler, who stayed overnight in Alexandria with a friend, says the city was sparkling clean.
   Many times, signs were left behind in the trash. Hostetler indicated that libraries are hoping to collect some of the signs as historical memorabilia. She and Regier both enjoyed reading the signs and Chappell-Dick referred to them as some of the most creative she had seen at a demonstration. Signs included a drawing of a woman with her head wrapped in an American flag, and signs saying “Respect Resistance,” “Don’t Underestimate Women,” “Nasty Grandmas,” “= Not ÷,” and the graphic sign “I’m with Her and Her and Her and Her” with arrows pointing off the sign.
   The speakers stood out as well. Nester and Hostetler loved getting to hear Gloria Steinem. Hostetler said that even though Steinem is 82, she looked great. “She was applauding that women were participating in this kind of a movement.” Nester simply said that he enjoyed getting to hear someone who was well known.
   Nester and Regier commented that America Ferrera, of “Ugly Betty” and “Superstore” fame, gave a particularly moving speech. Her parents are immigrants from Honduras and her speech was very emotional and passionate.
   Michael Moore also spoke. His point was “we must write our congress people every day.” To emphasize his point, he had everyone in the crowd chant the congressional phone number. The ploy worked. Regier has committed to writing his congressman more often, and Chappell-Dick has called Portman’s office daily since the trip, picking an issue and explaining her feelings about it.
   Remember the six-year-old girl who met Pope Francis as he paraded through the streets. She was there also. Chappell-Dick said that she was very articulate, indicating, “we have to be kind.” She worries about her parents who are refugees.
   This group agreed, “the speakers were very clear – we had to do more than march,” according to Chappell-Dick.
   These five people each brought something different back from the march. Nester said, “A big step was to join in the fight. The public was shown how popular the movement is, and it was brought to the mainstream.” Regier commented, “It was a learning experience. I am passionate about equal rights.” Metheney, like Nester and Regier, was attending her first march. “I learned there were massive amounts of human beings who felt the same way.”
   Hostetler, who has attended a demonstration at a missile silo in North Dakota opposing the nuclear arms race, a demonstration supporting the Dayton Peace Accord and a demonstration at the Lima-Allen County Courthouse protesting U.S. money going to Israel for nuclear arms, says, “I learned that there can be huge masses gathered for many different purposes but under one umbrella – women’s rights are human rights.”
   For Chappell-Dick, attending these demonstrations is “part of being a citizen.” The reason to march is for something inside of you. “You can’t control how others see you, but you can control your own conscience and behavior.”
   Chappell-Dick practices what she preaches. In November, she heard that the people at Standing Rock, North Dakota, protesting the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline, were about to be denied supplies. She immediately put out a plea for donations so that she could take a van full of food and other necessities to the camp. Within 24 hours, she had what she needed and set off to North Dakota.
   Background for this event comes from Robinson Meyer in “The Atlantic.com” on Sept. 9, 2016: “The tribe claims that the pipeline—which climate activists portray as a sequel to Keystone XL—could threaten their sole water source and that, more importantly, they were not consulted before the pipeline was approved.” He wrote that major archeological sites, including the burial site of an important chief, had been discovered since the 1985 survey that the engineers were using, but “The tribe and its legal team say that less than 24 hours after evidence of the new sacred sites were provided to the court, the Dakota Access company began construction on those same exact sites, perhaps destroying many of them forever.”
   So, as a result of her beliefs, she loaded the van and went to Standing Rock with supplies for the make-shift village of tipis and tents for almost 5,000 people which was increased by 3,000 veterans and 500 clergy, all willing to stand up for the Sioux, their water and their sacred lands, helping to mushroom the village to almost 15,000.
   Chappell-Dick was there for just seven hours, but she was true to her beliefs “to stand with people who are oppressed – to learn from their stories. It’s like writing a letter to the editor with your body.”