WESTFIELD, NJ — About 1,500 people, some chanting and others carrying signs, wound their way through this central Union County town on Saturday, Jan. 20, for the second annual Women’s March, a companion event to 12 other rallies across the state.
From San Juan, Puerto Rico, to Osaka, Japan, 673 marches were organized across the globe. Westfield’s event, organized by Westfielders Jessica Golden Cortes and Lee McDermott Schaefer, was a scaled-down version compared to the state’s main demonstration in Morristown and was one of several “sister events” that took place in Monroe, Leonia, Trenton and Ocean City.
Union County Freeholder Bruce Bergen, who lives in Springfield, and newly elected Westfield Mayor Shelley Brindle were part of the Westfield crowd.
The crowd size was officially estimated at about 1,500 to 2,000 people, Westfield Chief of Police David Wayman told LocalSource.
While people marched for different reasons, attendee Fran Wagner told LocalSource she was there to highlight the fact that women vote.
“All of the events over the past year have made me convinced that this is more important than ever to show that women are a force in the electorate,” Wagner said. “Everyone here votes, no one is here spontaneously because they are giving out free Skittles.”
Marci Bandelli, co-founder and organizer of Westfield 20/20, a grassroots activist organization, told LocalSource she was at the march to send a message.
“The current (White House) administration wants to put a jackhammer to women’s rights and our freedoms, and it is not OK,” Bandelli said. “We have to get out there and show them that people forever fight and resist this administration.”
Throughout the event various speakers addressed the crowd. One of the first speakers was Lisa Mandelblatt, a Democratic candidate running to oppose U.S. Rep. Leonard Lance, a four-term Republican who represents New Jersey’s 7th Congressional District. Lance’s district office on North Avenue in Westfield has been the scene of several demonstrations during the past year.
LocalSource reached out to Lance for comment, but a response was not received before press time this week.
Following Mandelblatt’s speech in the Westfield Train Station Parking Lot, participants marched west along South Avenue and up East Broad Street to Mindowaskin Park, where the crowd heard additional speakers and talks.
Speakers included Scott Mack of Moms Demand Action Against Gun Violence, Joann Boyle from the YWCA of Union County, Westfield High School senior Katie Clark and WHS Young Democrats President Colin Sumner.
Representing the Union County chapter of the National Organization for Women were Fanwood Mayor Colleen Mahr and Jill LaZare, who was defeated by Tom Kean in the state Senate race for the 21st District in November 2017.
“We are here to say that the theme of this march is power at the polls — when women vote, women win,” Mahr stated. “The National Organization for Women was founded in 1966 by 15 outraged women who founded a new organization to fight for feminine civil rights. NOW’s purpose is to bring women in full participation in the mainstream of society.”
Lazare added that the organization fights for health care, child care and pregnancy leave for women, and labels these as important social issues, not just women’s issues.
Maddy Davis, a senior at Westfield High School, concluded the event with a performance of the song “Girl on Fire” by Alicia Keys.