Dozens of women clad in red rallied in the shadow of Roosevelt Field Mall in Garden City on Wednesday for International Women’s Day and to raise awareness about a range of issues, including paid leave, reproductive rights and equal pay.
Attendees chanted, “Equal pay for equal work!” and “My body, my choice!” while waving signs proclaiming, “We are the 51 percent”—a reference to the majority-female population in the United States—and endorsing Planned Parenthood, as cars zoomed passed on Old Country Road and honked in support.
Nassau County Legis. Laura Curran (D-Baldwin), who is running for county executive in the November election, told the women alongside her that she wanted to inspire others to get involved.
“The Old Boys Club has been running Nassau County for far too long,” she said through a megaphone, noting that only four of the 23 elected seats in the county are held by women. “I’m running to change that.”
The South Shore Women’s Caucus, a grassroots group that grew out of protests stemming from President Donald Trump’s election, organized the rally, which also coincided with a parallel day of action called “A Day Without A Woman”—the essence of which was to shine a light on the importance of women in the economy.
Democrats have been clearly disappointed with the November election results, and thousands nationwide have responded to Trump’s ascension with acts of civil disobedience and grassroots political action. Several women Wednesday said they attended Women’s Marches a day after Trump’s inauguration and have continued to be politically active ever since.
The event on a sunny but breezy Wednesday in Garden City drew about 50 women, some coming as far as the Hamptons, and ranged from high school and college-aged women to parents of young children and retirees.
While many shared individual concerns, their motivations for demonstrating were to highlight the role of women in society and issues they consider pressing.
“I need to protect women’s rights, I need to protect Planned Parenthood, I need to protect Obamacare,” said a woman named Audrey, a member of the Bellmore-Merrick Democratic Club, who didn’t want to give her last name. “Before this election, there were many times when we only had about a dozen people attending our meetings. And since this election, people are so upset that we’ve been having over 100 people attending our meetings. People want to get involved.”
Halle Brenner, 47, of East Northport, brought along her daughter, a junior in high school, who felt compelled to rally alongside her mom.
“I just feel like so many of my values and many American values are under attack by this administration and, quite frankly, the Republican Party also,” Brenner said, mentioning various issues, including minimum wage and equal pay.
“It’s amazing to me that my daughter still has to fight for that,” she added.
Brenner said she was concerned about the impact the new administration’s policies would have on Planned Parenthood, which is in danger of losing funding as part of a Republican-led health care overhaul, adding that the group predominantly conducts preventive tests that don’t draw as much attention as its abortion procedures, such as mammograms and pap smears.
Shane Larkin, public affairs coordinator for Planned Parenthood of Nassau County, said women have the power to make a difference.
“Right now we need to embody resistance, strength and leadership; and we’re also acknowledging all the women who possess those qualities who we can’t go a day without,” she said.
For Abby Roden, 19, of East Hampton, the 80-mile journey west was necessary to send a message that her generation is up to the task of continuing the fight for women’s rights that began decades ago.
Roden, a freshman in college home for spring break, recalled a conversation she had once with Gloria Steinem in which the feminist icon said: “I don’t need to pass the torch but I’m just going to light all of yours.”
That has stuck with her.
“It is so important for us to get involved, and I’ve always felt that way,” she said. “I’m tired of people saying that our generation doesn’t care.”
For Joy Hutchins, 38, of Merrick, attending Wednesday’s rally was her way of passing the torch.
“I have three children: two daughters and a son. I want them to know how important women’s rights are. I want them to have rights over their own bodies,” she said. “I don’t think it belongs in politics.”
Hutchins brought along her 3-year-old son, who looked on from his stroller.
“He has to learn how to treat women right,” she said.
Holding the rally just feet from the entrance of Roosevelt Field Mall had its own kind of symbolism, especially on a day when women’s rights activists encouraged others to strike or refrain from shopping.
“Women are important in this economy. We are the shoppers,” said Beverly Visconti, of Baldwin. “If we don’t go to the stores, nothing goes. And we are trying to make a statement that we are important in this society.”
Events celebrating International Women’s Day were planned across the globe Wednesday.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the day held extra significance because 2017 marks the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage in New York State.
“Rest assured, New York will not waiver in our commitment to women’s rights, and we will stand tall with all women to move our progress forward,” Cuomo said.