Steamboat Women’s March brings allies together while touching on inequality, local sexual assault (with gallery)
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Messages from the fourth annual Women’s March on Steamboat Springs were clear: vote, support and empower.
Those were some of the words written across countless signs and echoed by the five guest speakers during the event Saturday, Jan. 18, in Steamboat Springs. Generations of mothers, daughters and sisters joined fellow women’s rights supporters of all ages as they marched down Lincoln Avenue from Bud Werner Memorial Library to the Routt County Courthouse.
They let their voices be heard along the way.
But Routt County Commissioner Beth Melton, who co-organized the event, said she hoped they would never have to march again — that the need would no longer be present.
“I challenge each and every one of you to think, not just about what you’ll do today, but about what you’ll do tomorrow and the day after that until this BS is over,” Melton said to a crowd of more than 100 people standing in the snow on the courthouse lawn following the march.
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Homemade signs jutting out from the crowd displayed several different themes and calls to action, from removing President Donald Trump from office to climate advocacy and upholding women’s reproductive rights.
One of the more prevalent themes at this year’s march focused on sexual assault against women.
“I’m a fairly typical high schooler,” Leona Thurston told the crowd. “I worry about my grades, I have a job, I worry about my sister, I ski, I dance and I’ve been sexually assaulted.”
Thurston, a senior at Steamboat Springs High School, spoke to the crowd about sexual assault and how it is “just another part of being a teenager.”
She said she represented the number of her peers who had been sexually assaulted in the community, reading anonymous stories that recounted the often helpless feelings the girls experienced during their assaults. Her goal, as she explained, was to encourage others to come forward and for the community to stop silencing victims.
“We live in a very tight-knit community, which makes it easy to keep things hidden, but as a community we need to learn to support victims and stop discouraging them from coming forward,” she said emphatically.
The crowd offered a loud applause.
“Never be ashamed of your story, because it will only inspire others to tell theirs,” she said. “The day you speak up is the day you take your power back.”
“You are courage,” speaker Therese Bartholomew said to Thurston as she took the stage. Bartholomew, a Steamboat resident and social and restorative justice activist and educator, teaches a local self-defense class with her son.
“There’s this myth in the world of women’s self-defense that women are powerless; that we’re waiting to be empowered,” she said. “Ladies, that is just that: it’s a myth. Women aren’t powerless, we come from a place and a space of power.
“It’s taken me a few years to claim it, but my voice is no whisper.”
Robin Schepper spent 20 years working in Washington, D.C., and in the White House. Most recently, she served as executive director of former first lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move health and fitness initiative. She’s lived in Steamboat for the past eight years.
As someone fully involved in the political world, her message to the crowd was the importance of voting.
“I often hear politics doesn’t matter,” she said. She quickly dismissed that thought.
Schepper left the audience with four things to remember after leaving the march: to vote, recruit, participate and support.
“(Women) are 51% of the population. Do we have 51% representation in Congress? No. Do we have more women governors than male governors? No. We need to support women so that decisions are made that reflect the population of the United States.
“We know if we are all together, we cannot be defeated,” she said.
To reach Bryce Martin, call 970-871-4206 or email bmartin@SteamboatPilot.com.
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