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Northfield Women’s March stresses the importance of civic engagement

On Saturday, October 17,  over 100 people young and old participated in a pre-election Women’s March through Northfield. The event was organized by the Northfield Women’s March—a community organization—and involved a vocal performance, a march and a series of speeches in Bridge Square.

Messages from both the organizers and participants focused on women’s empowerment, political participation and the advancement of social justice. Contrary to the racially exclusive history—and racist contemporary branches—of white feminism, the Northfield Women’s March organizers and participants spoke to a diversity of women’s issues, including racial equity as a crucial component of gender equity. People in the march carried flowers and signs scrawled with phrases like, “My Body, My Choice,” “Justice for Breonna Taylor” and “Love not hate will make America great.” 

Prior to the march, Northfield resident Angela George read a version of the land acknowledgement drafted by the City of Northfield earlier this year. Sarah Missler, a co-organizer for both the Northfield Women’s March and Stand Up NFLD—a community group meeting weekly to continue awareness work on police violence—then sang “Rise Up” by Andra Day, to many cheers and shouts from the bundled-up audience.

The march ended in Bridge Square, where speeches by several women emphasized the importance of voting and opportunities to take further political action. The speakers included Rahmah Abdulai, a senior at Northfield High School; Greta Hardy-Mittell, a sophomore at Carleton; Erica Zweifel, a current member of the Northfield City Council and Assistant Director of Carleton’s Center for Community and Civic Engagement (CCCE); and Claudia Gonzalez-George, a candidate for the Northfield School Board, 

Zweifel reflected on calls to advance climate action, Indigenous rights, racial justice and gender equity, among other things, and emphasized the need for people to vote. “I was elected to the City Council in 2008 and that year we flipped the Northfield City Council from an all-male council to a majority of women. Let’s do some more flipping this November!” she said.

“When I turned eighteen, my main celebration was rushing to the town offices in my small Vermont town to register myself as a voter,” shared Hardy-Mittell. “Since then, I’ve voted in my new state of Minnesota in the presidential primaries, for state primaries back in Vermont over the summer, and two weeks ago, at Northfield City Hall, for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. And still I haven’t stopped there.” 

“Since this past summer, in a joint effort with Carleton Democrats and Sunrise Carleton, I have been calling voters, texting voters, sending postcards to voters, all to make sure they retain or gain that identity of voter in this election more critical than any we’ve had before,” Hardy-Mittell said. “So I’m asking every one of you to join me.”

“For the rest of us who have voted, we now have to help in other ways,” echoed Gonzalez-George. “We march to the polling booths. We march to activism.” 

“Trump is nothing new under the sun of oppression and capitalism,” she continued. “He has done something incredible, though, with our country—and that is he has activated us. So many of us were activated into greater civil involvement because of his heinous actions of these long, long four years.”

Gonzalez-George cited child separations at the border, forced sterilization of ICE detainees and Trump’s continued reference to the coronavirus as “the China virus” as a few examples of his racist and cruel manner, and said, “The evil way [Trump] treats all people not like himself is heartbreaking. And I blame the GOP for not checking him. Vote all of them out!” 

Abdulai, who is also an organizer for Stand Up NFLD and is president of Northfield High School’s Black Students’ Union, similarly framed voting as a crucial antiracist act. “We are out here protesting today to assert feminism’s intersectionality, and we will fight for our black, brown, Muslim, immigrant and LGBTQ+ brothers and sisters and that’s why we need to vote, vote for yourself, vote for friends and our loved ones who can’t vote, vote for your future!”

“One last thing,” said Gonzalez-George at the conclusion of the speeches, waving a United States flag: “This flag belongs to all of us. Take it back. Display it. Wave it! Believe in and work out those lofty promises of ‘with liberty and justice for all.’”

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