KALAMAZOO — More than a thousand people braved the chilly temperatures Saturday morning at Bronson Park for the Kalamazoo women’s rally and march in honor of late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
The second demonstration of its kind in Kalamazoo since January, Saturday’s event coincided with marches held nationwide to celebrate the life and legacy of Ginsburg, ramp up voter enthusiasm and oppose the nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court.
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More than 1,100 people gathered in Bronson Park, according to organizers. Some people brought signs, flags, facemasks and mementos that gave a nod to Ginsburg, who passed away on Sept. 18.
The event was emceed by Kalamazoo County Commissioner Stephanie Moore, who brought Kalamazoo’s DJ Chuck to provide live music and entertainment throughout the afternoon.
Organizers said the death of Ginsburg, a leading litigator of women’s rights and an icon to advocates, and the subsequent nomination by President Trump to replace Ginsburg’s seat with Barrett, was the catalyst for Saturday’s event.
Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill have debated whether or not the president should make a nomination so close to an election. A similar debate happened in 2016 when the Republican-led Senate blocked then-President Barack Obama’s nomination.
Joe “Annie” Morgan, the organizer behind Kalamazoo’s march Saturday said Republicans in the US Senate should let the people have a say in who they want to replace Ginsburg in the Supreme Court.
“The GOP trying to nominate Amy Barrett three weeks before an election, I mean c’mon— you want to talk about packing the court, that’s exactly what Republicans are doing,” Morgan said.
Morgan and others who took the stage stressed the march meant more than just a vocal opposition to Barrett’s confirmation to the US Supreme Court, which the Senate Judiciary Committee is expected to vote on Oct. 22, but an opposition of everyone who they say is working against civil rights, the rights of women, and members of the LGBTQ+ communities.
“The most important thing we can do is vote,” said Diane Melvin, director of religious education at People’s Church in Kalamazoo. “It is time for us to rise up together for equity and justice — the time is right for change. We need to envision the type of world we want to live in, a community that regards all people regardless of gender, their gender identity, who they love or the color of their skin,” Melvin said.
Melvin was one of several speakers at Saturday’s event who spoke to the importance of voting out Republican politicians, who activists say are attempting to roll back decades of policy in regards to women’s rights.
“Going back to the 50 1/4 u2032s is what’s at stake,” one of the organizers, Michelle Zukowski-Serlin, told the crowd. “Amy Coney Barrett is going to turn all of these things Ginsburg accomplished back.”
In a spirited address to the crowd surrounding the Rotary Stage, activist and retired professor Dr. Kate Cook repeated a famed Ginsburg quote to a burst of applause.
“Women belong in all places where decisions are being made,” Cook said, quoting the late Supreme Court Justice. “Ginsburg helped us all to see that women can help to create real change, and she worked so hard toward the end of her life. I want us to use our memories of Ruth in our struggles for justice for women.”
Circling the streets along Bronson Park, marchers walked down the sidewalks heading north on Park Street, then turning east on Michigan Avenue, then south on Rose Street, and turning west on South Street before arriving back at the park.
After just three weeks of planning the event, Zukowski-Serlin said she was inspired by the work of dozens of volunteers, as well as the city, which she said helped secure the park.
“Within three days we had 12 people helping us, within five days we had Mayor Anderson helping us,” Zukowski-Serlin said. “It really built up and we have so many involved because people have an energy— they want to make things better. We’re tired of the chaos and fighting and name-calling, we really just want a little normal.”
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