More than 100 people marched Wednesday afternoon through downtown Ann Arbor as part of the International Women’s Strike, one of many demonstrations occurring throughout the day locally and nationwide. The strike encouraged women to take the day off from work and buy only from female- or minority-owned businesses.
Though similar in nature, the International Women’s Strike is not affiliated with the “A Day Without a Woman” event, which was organized by the Women’s March on Washington.
Liz Ratzloff, an organizer of the strike in Ann Arbor, spoke about the need for sustained activism, stating the current political moment was an ideal time to create new activists.
“The Women’s March was a pretty incredible event,” she said. “Millions of people marched around the country and around the world, so this has been a great opportunity to have sustained involvement and to not just have that be a one-time event. There are a ton of people who are getting involved, who haven’t ever been involved in activism or felt a strong need to resist in the past, and this is just another opportunity for that.”
Though the Women’s March, an activist group that grew out of the worldwide marches protesting President Trump’s inauguration, received flak for being exclusionary of trans women, the International Women’s Strike explicitly included trans women in its platform.
Ratzloff lauded the inclusion of the International Women’s Strike, emphasizing it was just as important to advocate on issues that she wasn’t personally affected by.
“First of all, trans women are women,” she said. “And trans women also experience an increased rate of violence and discrimination, and part of solidarity is standing up for issues that affect all of us. Injustice somewhere is an injustice everywhere.”
LSA junior Lakyrra Magee said every movement struggles with inclusion, and she criticized the signs and attire of some protesters in attendance.
“When I was first invited to speak at this event, I was hesitant,” Magee said. “As a queer Black woman, it is easy to end up being the diversity ticket for white activism. While we see an attempt with inclusivity in the platform, popular slogans and rhetoric express the severe need for better understanding of how we fight for all women. Your pussy hats are not inclusive to all women.”
Rackham student Rachel Miller, a member of the Graduate Employees’ Organization, spoke about the importance of unionization, specifically referencing the University President Mark Schlissel’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion plan and the fact that all of the work necessary for the plan’s success is voluntary. GEO is currently bargaining a new contract with the University.
“One of the key components of our platform, something our membership has demanded and created, is University support and compensation for diversity labor, the kind of work that has long been unrecognized and undervalued, and ends up falling on the shoulders of those it is intended to benefit,” she said.
After several other women spoke to the crowd at Liberty Plaza, organizers led a march through downtown with chants of “No justice, no peace,” and “the people united can never be divided,” momentarily blocking traffic on some streets. Ann Arbor Police Department officers were also present, directing both traffic and protesters away from each other.