Women's March Rockford held a sign making party at Womanspace on Saturday. It gave people the opportunity to create signs not just for themselves, but for anyone who shows up to the assembly empty-handed.
Mary McNamara Bernsten is an event organizer for the march. She was cutting cardboard with a utility knife so she and others could paint and transform the rectangles into protest sign art. She said last year they had several signs ready to go. "When people got to the march, you could kind of see them looking around and thinking, 'I wish I had something to hold.'"
McNamara Bernsten continued, "If you've never done it before, it's not as easy as you think it is to go out and express yourself." She said people responded favorably to the pre-made signs. "A lot of people were happy. They were, 'Oh great! Give me a sign!' They picked one that they related to personally and took off with it."
Though there will be a supply of extra signs handy, marchers are encouraged to create their own protest sign art. Pro Tip: Using sturdy cardboard will help prevent signs from wobbling in the wind.
Julie Thompson crafted a sign that had a silhouette of Lady Liberty with the words "Liberty - Equality - Diversity." She said, "My sign means that this is a country made of immigrants, and that we all can achieve according to our effort, and that everybody is welcome."
Thompson said she hopes there is a good turnout. "I just think that numbers are important -- the more women who stand up for women's rights, the better."
But not just women are invited to march. Everyone is invited; regardless of age, race, color, creed and/or gender identity. McNamara Bernsten said, "Women's March Rockford definitely encourages kindness and compassion and seeing things from a different perspective. We don't enourage people to use words or images that may be harmful to a culture or to someone personally."
She said, "An example of a sign that is not encouraged could be one that is anti-Trump with an added layer of disrespect." She said, "We don't encourage those, but there is no policing of the signs, either. We have the First Amendment for a reason."
As for government and politics, McNamara Bernsten said, "The Women's March originated the day after the inauguration of our current president, so it does get a little political." She explained, "Women's rights are politically charged because they are related to legislative issues." Regardless of the political nature of the march, she stressed that it is to be peaceful, inclusive and diverse. Then she listed some of the speakers:
"We have Rhonda Greer, the president of the Rockford chapter of the NAACP; we have Rev. Violet Johnicker who is a local pastor; we have Gina Meeks who will sing; and we have U.S. Representative Cheri Bustos who will close us out and give us our 'marching orders.' And then we'll move out from there."
McNamara Bernsten said this is her fourth march. "I actually went to Washington D.C. the first year. The second year, I went to Chicago where my sister lives and marched with my sisters there. Then last year we brought it home to Rockford."
Women's March Rockford begins and ends at Rockford City Market on Saturday, January 18, 2020 from noon until 2:00 p.m.