The Women’s March Gainesville and Ocala chapter hosted its first general body meeting Saturday, Feb. 4.
The meeting took place at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Gainesville, located at 4225 NW 34th St., and served as a recap of the march that took place in Washington on Jan. 21. The initial march was so widely attended that local affiliates started forming around the country.
“We had about 800 people go (to the Women’s March on Washington) from Gainesville which is exceptional for a town our size,” said Holly Sprinkle, co-captain of the Women’s March Gainesville chapter.
After returning home from the march, Sprinkle immediately began looking for ways to keep the momentum going. She began working with organizers at the state level to open a local faction so the community can stay involved.
The meeting was at capacity with about 400 people sitting and standing inside. People also listened through a window from outside.
“I think it’s remarkable that originally this was supposed to be at someone’s house and then it grew to be such a large event,” said Meryl Alappattu, Gainesville resident. “The energy is amazing and the fact that so many people care, not just women, is incredible.”
Co-captain Melissa Hawthorne reviewed the eight principles of equality that the Women’s March stands for before the meeting broke off into groups based on different social issues.
“As a community, we feel like the best way is to unite people based on policy,” Sprinkle said. “Really the goal of Saturday is to help people figure out what they want to do moving forward and how they want to get plugged in to the community.”
Though critics of the Women’s March within the feminist community have said the march focused too much on cisgendered women, Sprinkle hopes that localizing the movement will aid in bridging the gap.
“I think in Gainesville, at least the marchers I’ve seen, have been completely supportive of everyone who’s wanted to move forward with us and even have been really nice to people who don’t want to be supportive of the movement at all,” Sprinkle said.
People had diverse reasons for attending, but Barbara Bour, a 67-year-old retired clinical instructor at the University of Florida, is most concerned about reproductive rights.
“Being the age that I am, I’ve seen it come from a place where women were getting abortions in the back alley, if you will, with crude equipment, and we’ve come to a place in history where we’re at least able to make a choice about what’s happening to our bodies and I don’t want to see that taken away,” Bour said.
The next meeting will be at First Magnitude Brewing Company located at 1220 SE Veitch St. on Feb. 26. There will be live music as well as the general meeting, Sprinkle said.
Hawthorne said there is a place for everyone in the movement and it is never too late to begin work in activism.
“The power of a collective group working towards a common goal is undeniable,” Hawthorne said. “There is hope. There is possibility. Anything is possible.”