The Women’s March is back, hoping to build on the success of last year’s event to have an effect at the polls next November.
Organizers have arranged to close down Main Street in Wichita from Central to 3rd Saturday for a rally at City Hall, highlighting a broad range of women’s issues including voting rights, reproductive rights, sexual harrassment and sexual assault.
“Everyone is welcome to come, not just women,” said Brandi Calvert, who is organizing the event. “Anyone who supports women’s rights and equality is welcome to join.”
Last year’s event drew thousands of women and their supporters downtown the day after the inauguration of President Trump.
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The past year has been notable for the exposure of prominent men in government and entertainment who mistreated female employees, and the emergence of a national #MeToo movement where women turned to social media to share their personal stories to draw attention to pervasive sexual harrassment and abuse.
Several speakers will address those topics at the march.
Calvert said the main goal of this year’s event is to move past protest and try to effect change through the ballot box. In November, Kansans will choose a new governor and secretary of state, and all 125 seats in the state House will be up for grabs.
Volunteers will circulate through the Women’s March crowd with federal voting registration forms, so participants can sign up to vote without having to provide the documented proof of citizenship that Kansas law requires.
Voting rights activists have said the state’s proof-of-citizenship law falls hardest on women, who often have to provide more than a birth certificate to prove their identity as their names had changed through marriage.
But a series of court decisions have required Kansas to accept the federal form as registration to vote in all federal, state and local elections.
Nine women are on the agenda to speak at Saturday’s rally, including Karen Countryman-Roswurm, a former teenage runaway who rebounded to earn a doctorate in psychology and now heads Wichita State University’s Center for Combatting Human Trafficking.
Other speakers include Lavonta Williams, who recently ended a 10-year tenure on the Wichita City Council; abortion-rights activist Julie Burkhart, who heads the group Trust Women and its South Wind Women’s Center clinic; and Christie Brungardt, a professor of leadership studies at Fort Hays State University who founded the anti-domestic violence group Jana’s Campaign.
Calvert said the group has not invited any female elected officials to speak, because it does not want to associate the movement with party politics.
The event is scheduled to run 11-2 p.m. Saturday outside City Hall, 455 N. Main, Wichita.