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Women's March in Iowa again rallying in Iowa City, Des Moines on Saturday

Events still planned despite snowstorm

Activists wave signs and chant during the Iowa City Women’s March on Saturday, Jan. 21, 2017. (Bill Adams/Gazette freelancer)
Activists wave signs and chant during the Iowa City Women’s March on Saturday, Jan. 21, 2017. (Bill Adams/Gazette freelancer)
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Two years since hundreds of thousands of protesters took to streets across the country for the first Women’s March, organizers in Iowa said their momentum isn’t slowing down.

Women’s Marches are planned Saturday in Des Moines, Iowa City and Dubuque.

“I think marches bring people together. We reunite and renew our spirit and commitment,” said Casey Gale of Coralville, who helped organize the Iowa City march.

The initial march in 2017 was held the day after the inauguration of President Donald Trump and brought together women and men highlighting a broad range of issues. That spirit continues with the 2019 march, said another Iowa City march organizer, Lisa Bergmann-Smithey of Shueyville.

“Instead of really narrowing the focus to one or two issues, for me, at least, it’s more of a broad base — respect, human rights, honoring the legacy of the movements that came before us. We’re all impacted by all these social justice and human rights issues,” she said.

The Iowa City march will include speakers on the Pedestrian Mall followed by a short march around downtown. Organizers said they hope the weather doesn’t discourage people from attending — 4 to 8 inches of snow are expected to fall overnight Friday — and they’ve distributed signs to supportive businesses downtown to indicate places marchers can step inside to warm up.

In Des Moines, organizers announced Friday they would move the event inside the Iowa Capitol building due to weather. The Des Moines rally will include a speech from New York Sen. Kristen Gillibrand, a Democrat who recently announced her intention to run for president in 2020.

Robin Covington of Waukee is president of the Women’s March Iowa board of directors. A mother of six, including four daughters adopted through the foster care system, she said she’s marching for them.

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“I feel compelled to make sure their futures are secure and they can thrive,” she said.

She said holding a march is important to celebrate the work being done in the state and those doing that work, and to help people find ways to get involved, whether that is simply registering to vote or showing up to lobby lawmakers at the Capitol.

“Every year, we’re surprised at people who say they don’t know what to do, and we always have shout outs to the next step,” she said.

Controversy has surrounded the national Women’s March organization leadership after accusations of anti-Semitism were reported in publications including Tablet and The New York Times. Covington said she understands people’s concerns and wants them to know Women’s March Iowa is independent from the national organization.

“We just all organized with the same title, but we’re not interconnected,” she said. “I encourage everyone to email (Women’s March) National and let them know what they think. We’re hyper-focused on what’s going on in Iowa, and we welcome any and all women.”

She said the marches each year have included broad coalitions of activist groups and are just one element of organizing that’s happening in Iowa. She pointed to the “women’s wave” of female candidates elected in the midterms, including Abby Finkenauer and Cindy Axne to Congress.

“There’s so much activism going on,” Covington said. “Iowa women are always jazzed to show up. ... We’ve never had a problem with organizing in Iowa.”

Some Iowans planned to attend the national march in Washington, D.C., with a chartered bus of marchers leaving from Cedar Rapids and Iowa City on Friday. Others, like friends Kathy Siems and Bobbie Fox of Cedar Falls, were flying to the nation’s capital.

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They attended the Women’s March in Des Moines together two years ago and felt the time was right to march again. Siems, a dispatcher for the University of Northern Iowa Police Department, has family in D.C. and plans to share the experience with a niece who lives there.

“I want to honor the people who came before in the fight for women’s rights. Because of them, I can go to our government in protest and not get put in jail or shot,” she said. “I also have very strong concerns about politics going backward right now as far as women’s rights are concerned.”

Iowa City Women’s March

• Where: Pedestrian Mall, Iowa City

• When: 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday

• Speakers: Mary Mascher, Mazahir Salih, Royceann Porter

Des Moines Women’s March

• Where: Iowa State Capitol, 1007 E. Grand Ave., Des Moines

• When: 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday

• Speakers: Kristen Gillibrand, Kyla Paterson, Jacquelinne Haller, Bonnie Brown, Christine Nobiss, Deidre DeJear

Dubuque Women’s March

• Where: Steeple Square, 105 E. 15th St., Dubuque

• When: 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Saturday

• Speakers: Pam Jochum, Lindsay James, Ann McDonough

l Comments: (319) 398-8339; alison.gowans@thegazette.com

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