BAR HARBOR — The many Mount Desert Island women who traveled to marches in Augusta, Washington, D.C. and elsewhere over the weekend agree that the demonstration was just the beginning.
About a hundred women, with a few men and kids, rode buses from Mount Desert Island High School to the nation’s capital. They were greeted with “Thank you for marching” signs at the head of the island. They rode all night Friday, and all night Saturday on the return trip.
Dozens more participated in a “sister march” in Augusta, estimated to have included 10,000 people. About 50 others gathered at the Bar Harbor Village Green Saturday morning for a “lunch” to discuss feelings heading into the Trump administration and opportunities for making their voices heard.
“I don’t throw bombs,” Anne Funderburk of Seal Harbor said. “I don’t throw anything except words. But we all need to find our voice.”
After the weekend’s events were over, we spoke with the three MDI women profiled in the Jan. 13 edition of the Islander.
Marsha Lyons of Southwest Harbor rode the bus from MDI but separated from the group to meet up with her daughter. It was a challenge to navigate in the massive crowd, but there was a strong sense of everyone caring for each other, she said.
“I found myself sucked into a crowd that was so enormous, I couldn’t see or move.”
She found her daughter several hours after they had planned to meet, with some help from women she didn’t know. “They took me under their wing. Everyone was so kind, we were all so grateful to be there and experience this very historic thing that was going on.”
She said there’s still an uphill battle to be fought for rights, equality and peace, but the kindness she experienced gave her hope.
“That’s the way we all ought to treat each other, if we can just be kind instead of being defensive and sniping at each other. It’s a better mindset than to be angry all the time.”
“It was an incredible journey,” Susan Murphy of Bar Harbor said of the march. “The amount of creativity and love that was there was just beautiful.
The bus ride was quiet so people could get as much sleep as possible, she said. She stayed in a group with three others who came on the bus. They spent much of the afternoon near the National Museum of the American Indian, where a circle of native women from all over the country had gathered.
“I know that there’s some spin that it was a negative, anti-Trump rally, but it really wasn’t,” she continued. “It was about protesting his policies, but it was this huge coalition – all age groups, ethnic groups, such an expression of love and unity and combined purpose.”
Murphy was especially touched to see lots of women in their 60s escorting their very elderly mothers in their 80s and 90s in wheelchairs and walkers.
“I came back feeling very energized to build coalitions – I’ve been working on issue campaigns for a long time, always feels people are separate in their own little groups.”
She is focusing on health and education issues, saying they are “investments that we have to make in our people in order to prevent so many problems down the road.” She hopes Sen. Susan Collins will make public presentations in Maine about her recent proposal to replace the Affordable Care Act.
Along with writing her elected officials in Augusta and Washington, Mount Desert Island High School senior Annie Painter is also looking at ways to get more high school students talking about the issues.
“A couple teachers mentioned an idea to me about starting a high school politics-human rights discussion group,” she said. “I think it would be a cool thing.”
Many local high school and college students were part of the march. Painter said her favorite part was that everyone she saw seemed hopeful.
“So much of what I’ve seen about the election up until now has been about fear, and it was so great to see that fear fueling people into actual action. It was like people realized that they didn’t have to accept what they couldn’t change, they could take a step forward and change what they couldn’t accept instead.”
She said actions from Washington directly affect her life and the lives of people she cares about. “It’s too important to not be involved. It’s crazy to not care, especially when actual human rights are being threatened.”