The Women’s March on Jan. 21 was arguably the largest one-day protest in American history. The marchers were passionate and ready to fight for their human rights in response to President Trump’s inauguration.
Although the march already established itself as something for the history books, it seems to have people asking, “Well, what do we do now?”
Charlotte Haller, an associate professor of history at Worcester State University, stated that protests are effective.
“Just the sheer volume of people participating all across the country, I think, has had a huge impact,” she said.
She states there are two main ways peaceful protests have an impact.
“One is what it does for the people who participate in the march, and I think for those who participated, it was a very positive experience of giving people a sense of community and empowerment when a lot of people, I think, were feeling pretty depressed,” Haller said.
The second way has to do with the external effects.
“Protests have been a signal to democratic politicians that they can take a stronger stance and that there are constituents and that there are people kind of pushing them in those directions,” Haller said.
Furthermore, the Women’s March has “set the stage” for future protests opposing the executive orders, Haller said. The protests may even lead the Trump administration to rethink their “extreme” plans.
Despite the effectiveness of protesting, there is still a question in the air about what the next step is.
“We need people who will go to marches, we need people who will volunteer in soup kitchens and just help out people in a really basic, grassroots way,” she said.
Haller said it is important for people to be activists every day.
“We need people calling elective representatives,” she said. “We need people donating money to whatever cause they believe in. I think ultimately from the specifics of the anti-Trump progressive movement, the thing we need the most is people willing to run for office at all levels.”
This, however, is something that may take time and proper education.
Tea Xharja, a 21-year-old sociology major at WSU, is a big believer in education for change.
“Real rights are fought through education,” Xharja said.
She went on to say the only way rights and freedoms are attainable is by restructuring the curriculum and providing affordable college.
According to Xharja, the people in college now who believe in these rights will “move their way to the top to make executive decisions.”
Haller concurs to some degree.
“Someone can decide they now want to be a lawyer in response to the travel bans, but that all takes time,” Haller said. “For me, I ask, ‘what am I gonna do this week?’”
Despite education being a main factor for real change, Haller said, “I don’t think it’s the only way. I do think that there is a tendency among a lot of women to think, ‘I couldn’t run for office, I need to pay my dues’, or ‘I need to learn how things work before I can take that important step.’”
She went on to say, “but I actually think that’s not the case. There’s a lot of education that sort of happens on the ground.”
What can one do to be a daily activist?
Haller suggests joining local communities, like Ascentria, which “do a lot of good work in terms of helping immigrants.”
Haller has rejoined the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which is a national organization whose mission is “to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in this country by the Constitution and laws of the United States.”
She said that doing something as small as volunteering to work in local public schools can make the difference in defending your beliefs.