Marching for Unity

The organization was thrilled with the turnout and successful march. Photos by Richard Lieberman

by Amy Brown

In a sea of pink knit hats and creative signs with humorous and pointed political and social messaging, a crowd of approximately 1,500 attended a rally in Plaza Park in Ventura on January 18th and then marched through downtown for Justice For All Ventura County’s (JFAVC ) 4th annual event, held in conjunction with women’s marches nationwide. JFAVC is a non-profit focused on the environment, women’s issues, LGBTQ issues, health care, economic equity, immigration, education, and cultural equity.

According to Christine Burke, JFAVC’s President and the emcee of the rally, the organization was thrilled with the turnout and successful march. “We hope that people get out and get invigorated about working to make the world a better place. And for us, this is such an important year because the vote is coming up in November, and we’re going to be hosting, cohosting and partnering with other organizations throughout the year that are affiliated with topics being discussed on the stage,” said Burke.

Most of the attendees seemed united on the importance of exercising the right and power of voting, and passion for equality and environmental issues. “The most important things are rationality, sensibility, reason, and compromise. Absent of that, the most important thing is to get enough people mobilized to vote to make a difference. In this country, there are more people that are progressive or left leaning, but don’t seem to get up the nerve to vote,” said Jeff Kirby, who participated in the rally and also served as a volunteer marshal guiding marchers on the sidewalk.

There were hundreds of young women, in groups, and with their families at the diverse event. 14-year-old Amelia Beving and 13 -year -old Natalie Schermer held signs that read ‘Be the Change and Drive an EV’ and ‘I’m With Her…Mother Earth’ and they both expressed specific concerns about the environment and human rights. “I’m worried about the fact that we’re close to the point where we can’t turn it around. I’m excited to get to the age to get to vote—I know a lot of kids that are already politically in tune,” said Schermer. “I feel like now, with the internet and news moving at a fast pace, we are more aware of the problems we face and it kind of scares us, and we want to make a change.”

Speakers at the rally included congressional representatives from the House and the Senate and also from the State Assembly, as well as Ventura Mayor Matt Lavere, city council members, and local organizations including the Ventura County Community Foundation and Climate Strike 805—all urging unity and action for social justice.

One key topic shared was that 2020 is the 100 anniversary of the 19th amendment being passed in this country, which allowed women the right to vote. “It took 100 years of fighting for women in this country to get the right to vote,” said California Congresswoman Julia Brownley. “When women vote, we win!” Several speakers also celebrated Virginia becoming the 38th state to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), which reads, in part: ‘Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.’

Planned Parenthood had strong support at the event, with many men and women holding signs in support of the organization and women’s right to choose. Maple Umscheid, 14 and her 15 year old sister Jasmine attended with friend Taylor Gonzalez, age 17. They held Planned Parenthood signs and a sign that called for both reproductive rights and LBGTQ rights. Gonzalez shared that she grew up in a conservative household and felt that she had not previously had an outlet to express her views as a woman. “It’s really beautiful to see us all coming together here to fight for these important causes.”

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