Meeting at Hanover Square Park and marching to Liberty Plaza in the rain, over 100 University of Michigan students, Ann Arbor residents and others took part in the Nationwide Solidarity March for Peace and Justice Saturday afternoon.
The Ann Arbor march was in coordination with similar marches across the country, all of which were aimed at promoting peace and standing up to all forms of hatred and violence.
According to Ann Arbor resident Corky Wa, an organizer of the march, the purpose of the march was to boost the spirits of those who may be exhausted from constant activism since the start of President Donald Trump’s term.
“After months and months of calls and letters and emails and postcards, people are starting to lose their mojo and the hate seems to be stronger,” Wa said.
Though the attendance of the march was dampened by rain, Wa led her fellow activists in a protest featuring chants against racism, the proliferation of nuclear weapons and the potential of war with North Korea.
Gov. Rick Snyder and Bill Schuette, Michigan attorney general and gubernatorial candidate, were popular targets for the marchers. While marching, chants of “How do we spell Rick Snyder? C-o-r-r-u-p-t” were common, and at the final destination, Liberty Plaza, protesters listened to activists deliver more fiery attacks on Snyder and Schuette.
Sandi Smith, an Ann Arbor business owner and the former president of the LGBTQ support group Jim Toy Community Center, spoke on Snyder and Schuette’s roles in the landmark court case DeBoer v. Snyder.
This case, which would be consolidated with others under the umbrella of Obergefell v. Hodges, led to marriage equality nationwide in a 2015 Supreme Court decision. Snyder and Schuette argued in DeBoer v. Snyder that the Michigan law preventing same-sex couples from having joint adoptions should be upheld.
Smith blasted Snyder and Schuette for their positions in this case, saying that Schuette fought DeBoer v. Snyder all the way to the Supreme Court to deny people like residents April DeBoer and Jane Rowse the ability to protect their children.
“(DeBoer and Rowse) filed their case on January 23, 2012, in federal court. Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette fought this case all the way to the Supreme Court, but he lost, of course,” Smith said.
Smith also spoke on the difficulties LGBTQ activists face in their fight toward equality, specifically singling out the state of Michigan for these hardships.
“I mean think about how easy it would have been … to give up,” she said. “April and Jane, with a house full of young children, each with full-time jobs, defending their moral standing as two lesbian moms that can raise children just as well as straight people, while their home state of Michigan, with our tax dollars, said that children raised by same-sex parents would be damaged for life.”
The remaining speakers included Nina Muckenthaler, the president of Michigan National Organization for Women, who spoke on what she sees as attacks on women’s rights by the Trump administration, and local activists, who spoke out against pipeline development in Washtenaw County and in other areas of Michigan.
The marchers’ spirits were also buoyed by local musicians and singers who performed classic protest anthems.
Music, Theatre & Dance senior Mason Van Gieson, a member of the a cappella group Amazin’ Blue, sang John Lennon’s song “Imagine” and spoke on the benefits of marches like these.
“I think primarily it’s a really wonderful community-building experience,” Van Gieson said. “I think that there is something about — primarily for a peace march — there’s something about finding other people that are thinking the same things you’re thinking, having the same fears and the same exhaustions that you’re having, especially within the current political climate.”