Hundreds gather at Missouri Theatre for third annual Solidarity March

The march hoped to raise awareness about equality, activism, unity and environmental issues in the community.
Planned Parenthood Advocates of Mizzou gathered signatures for a free emergency contraception petition at the 2019 Solidarity Rally Jan. 19, 2019, in Columbia, Missouri. Courtesy of Facebook via @PPAdvocatesMIZ

The third annual Mid-Missouri Solidarity March and Rally took place on Jan. 19 as one of the sister events of the Women’s March in Washington, D.C. This year’s major theme was unity moving forward.

In the past, the march has been held outside of the Boone County Courthouse. Due to inclement weather, the event was moved inside to Missouri Theatre. The march was also livestreamed on Facebook for people who were not able to attend the march.

Hundreds of individuals started walking into the theater around 12:45 p.m. and filled most of the seats on the lower level of the theater within 30 minutes.

Columbia Resident Melanie Knocke said she decided to come to the march after hearing her teenage son’s complaint about gun control issues. She later joined Mothers Demand Action for Gun Sense in America.

“Finally I asked him, ‘What are you going to do about it?’” Knocke said. “He stopped for a moment and then started talking about getting involved in some groups at school. Later, when my husband asked me about coming to the rally, I realized I needed to follow my own advice and do something. So here I am.”

Missouri resident Crystal Martie and her daughters have attended the march in Columbia since 2017.

“We looked forward to it all year long. It’s just super positive and surrounded by like-minded individuals and it always gives us a lot of hope,” Martie said.

Several local activism organizations set up stands such as Mid-Missouri Peaceworks, CoMo for Progress and Students Demand Action from Rock Bridge High School.

Student groups from MU also participated in the march. Colleen Lee is part of the Planned Parenthood Advocates of Mizzou. They were collecting signatures to get emergency contraception for all students at MU.

Having participated in marches in Washington, D.C and Columbia, Lee saw similarities yet differences between the two.

“D.C was huge and everyone was pissed off about [President Trump’s] inauguration in 2017, and I think that energy has dwindled a bit and people have lost some hope,” she said. “Columbia’s rally had some awesome speeches and focused more locally which is great, but I do think Columbia needs to stretch a little and be a bit more intersectional.”

The all-female indie rock band from Columbia, Violet And The Undercurrents, warmed up the crowd with several of its signature songs. The vocalist, Vonder Haar, came out with a loudspeaker and encouraged the crowd to chant out words like, “This is what democracy looks like!” to hype up the group.

The speakers at the march included Barb Kuensting, a student activist studying environmental science and documentary journalism at MU, Michela Skelton, vice-chair of the Missouri Democratic Party Progressive Caucus, Reverend Cassandra Gould, director of Missouri Faith Voices and Carolyn Amparan, chair of the Sierra Club Osage Group.

The final talk was given by Frances Moore Lappé, the author or co-author of 19 books about world hunger, living democracy and the environment. One of her signature works was “Diet for a Small Planet” in 1971, according to the webpage made by the event organizers.

Each of the speakers gave their insights on issues people are facing under the current administration including gun control, immigrants, wealth disparities, racial inequalities, climate change and more. Claps and cheers resonated within the walls of the theater throughout the march.

Jackie Collins said several things stuck with her after attending the march, including the climate change issues. She said she would definitely look into organizations affiliated with this issue as well as getting her kids to involve in the process.

She said she also really liked Skelton’s talk, particularly the mantra she used — “Breathe. Believe. Push.” Collins was accompanied by her friend from the same sorority chapter, Kappa Chi Omega, who has actively participated in marches years before and invited her to come this year.

Mark Haim, director of Mid-Missouri Peaceworks, was one of the co-organizers. He has participated in organizing the march since the first one took place in 2017. Haim said the purpose of the march is not just about responding to the issues but rather promoting a just, sustainable and peaceful future. A future of mutual respect.

“We see that there is urgent matter to be out and demonstrating for what we want to against what they were doing,” Haim said. “We are a group that works with sustainability, climate action and peace and justice. All those are threatened by the current administration who are trying to drag this country into a completely wrong direction which is not what we need.”

Edited by Emily Wolf | ewolf@themaneater.com

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