As a million women, men and children marched in the nation’s capitol Jan. 21,, a crowd estimated at 12,000 was rallying in Lansing to challenge not only the Trump presidency, but the ongoing assault on progressive values led by a GOP controlled legislature, executive branch and judiciary in the state. Lansing joined cities small and large across the globe.
Sarah Eisenberg, one of the Lansing event organizers, was seeking ways to engage her fears and frustrations right after the election. “Hey,” she recalled saying to various groups, “I am an individual who’s terrified about what’s just happened; what can I do?” Initially there were few answers for her, but through social media she connected with others and helped plan the statewide rally the day after the inauguration.
And those of like mind showed up — protest signs in tow and pink pussy hats affixed on heads, regardless of gender, despite the temperature near 70 degrees. They filled the Capitol lawn. And the supporters kept coming. They spilled out onto Capitol Avenue, the street that runs along the east side of the capitol where the rally was being held. Lansing Police closed the street to through traffic about an hour into the event and called in more officers.
They came to hear speakers like former state Sen. Gretchen Whitmer, who has announced she is seeking the Democratic nomination for governor in 2018. Former state Rep. Lisa Brown, who now serves as the county clerk in Oakland county and was Mark Schauer’s Lt. Gov. choice in the 2014 gubernatorial race, was also present. She was silenced by the GOP leadership for daring to usher the word “vagina” during a floor debate on abortion.
“Mr Speaker, I’m flattered that you’re all so interested in my vagina, but ‘no’ means ‘no,'” she said at the conclusion of her speech on the floor of the state house in 2012. She was soon joined in the legislative penalty box by former state Rep. Barb Byrum. Byrum, who is now clerk in Ingham County. Byrum dared to propose a vasectomy ban. She too addressed the crowd on Saturday.
“This is only the beginning of what I expect will be many protests against President Trump and his administration,” Byrum told Between The Lines in a Facebook interview Monday. “We re individuals who will have watchful eyes on his policies, will make our voices heard and stand up when our rights and safety is called into question.”
She called the opportunity to address the rally “a privilege.”