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Capitol storming vs. Women’s March: A tale of two very different protests

I can’t get out of my head the juxtaposition of the awful storming of the Capitol Building on Wednesday and the gathering of hundreds of thousands in the Women’s March of Jan. 21, 2017.

Rioters in support of President Donald Trump confronting police on the second floor of the U.S. Capitol near the entrance to the Senate on Wednesday.
Rioters in support of President Donald Trump confronting police on the second floor of the U.S. Capitol near the entrance to the Senate on Wednesday.
REUTERS/Mike Theiler

Try as I might I can’t get out of my head the juxtaposition of the awful storming of the U.S. Capitol Building on Jan. 6, 2021, and the gathering of hundreds of thousands in the Women’s March of Jan. 21, 2017. Both events were a result of deep dissatisfaction with the outcome of the presidential election. The similarities end there; the differences are telling.

The Women’s March resulted in the largest single-day demonstration in our nation’s history. Organically organized and largely attended by women, more than 670 events were held on all seven continents. It was a remarkable and peaceful demonstration of anger, disappointment and desire to make sure we never felt like that again. It allowed a worldwide vent for frustration, fear and trepidation about the future. Not once that day, while in the midst of the tens of thousands of marchers in St. Paul, did I ever worry about violence, feel unsafe or think about threatening elected officials. Neither did anyone else that day.

On Jan. 6, 2021, with the endorsement and encouragement the president (think of that – the president!), thousands of demonstrators took their fears, their frustrations and their fabrications into our nation’s Capitol. Once there, they ran amok in the offices and halls of our elected congressional members. Some people were hurt. Four died. That day, many felt unsafe and many worried about violence. Elected officials felt threatened.

All of us were injured.

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By contrast, after the Women’s March, thousands of new organizations sprang up to take action. Understanding that our democracy requires involvement, action and a commitment to peaceful change, women and their partners all across the United States got together and figured out how to become real citizens. Their successes were deep and wide. I know this because our group in Washington County (We Can Change the World or WCCW) involved hundreds of these women to recruit others, knock on doors, write letters and postcards and show up when needed. We made a difference in our own backyard and now most of our county shines a new color of blue.

Pam Neary
MinnPost file photo by Jana Freiband
Pam Neary
This week, Georgia showed us the way; there are now two new U.S. senators from Georgia. This is what legitimate change in our democracy looks like. The whiplash of the positive outcome there followed immediately by the ensuing thuggery in D.C. shows us the way. We CAN overcome the angst of our whiplash of the last four years and rid ourselves of the pain in the neck. There are no shortcuts: not, as Trump tells his supporters, to bully, intimidate and agitate until no one wants to be involved.

The divisions in our country are real. People’s needs are real. The cynicism is real. These valid concerns deserve attention and consistent input from us — ordinary people, ordinary citizens. That’s what democracy demands and now, we should all demand our due. Keep advocating, keep activating and keep voting.

Pam Neary is the chair of WCCW, We Can Change the World, and a former Minnesota legislator. She lives in Afton.

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