From Midway to D.C.: Women’s March backers speak out
Helen Rentch and Susan Shelton, both of Midway, were among hundreds of thousands of women who gathered in Washington, D.C., for the Women’s March on Washington the day after President Donald Trump was inaugurated. Rentch, 70, a Midway native, got there by way of a train she boarded in Charleston, W.Va., at 8:30 a.m.on Friday, Jan. 29, that began its route in Chicago. The train arrived in Washington, D.C., at 6:30 that evening, and the next morning, Rentch and a friend from college met at the home of another friend’s son in Arlington, Va., a suburb of D.C. Shelton, 46, who moved to Midway in 1995, drove to D.C. with two friends. Rentch took the Washington Metro system from Arlington to the capitol – eventually. “Eventually, the Metro just opened the gates, no fares, no fees, no cards, they got us through the turnstile as fast as they could. The trains were so packed, we he had to wait for four or five of them to pass before we could even squeeze in the door,” Rentch said. They were met in D.C. by people of all colors and ages from all over the country, most, but not all, wearing pink hats of various designs. “It was very uplifting. Humongous crowds everywhere, wonderful signs. I was trying to figure out where the rally was and how to get there. Eventually, we got to a place where we could see a big screen that had the (rally) speakers, so we could see the speakers, and we got to watch the speakers, which was good for us. A lot of people couldn’t get that close,” Rentch said. Asked why she went, Rentch, a former member of the Woodford County Human Rights Commission and the task force that helped lure a nursing home to Midway (The Homeplace at Midway), pointed out that as a teenager, she’d taken part in the 1964 March on Frankfort. “I went on instinct. I went because I sensed it was going to be something important, something that was consistent with my life and what I have learned and been in my life. I think the main message to me was … Trump, but not just Trump. The Republican Party has united behind a very black banner, in my opinion, and I think what we were saying is, ‘Don’t underestimate us, don’t think you’re going to be able to dismiss, ignore or run over us,’” Rentch said. “We’re standing on our rights and our dignity, we’re standing for each other, and we are many.” Shelton said she went to show her opposition to President Trump and everything he stands for, particularly what she sees as his views on gay rights, women’s rights and climate change. “Moving forward again. I don’t want to go back. I don’t want to be wearing a corset. You know what I’m saying?” Shelton said with a laugh. Some critics of the rally pointed out that the protestors hadn’t given the new President a chance – that they should have waited until he did something, as President, with which they disagreed. Neither Rentch nor Shelton buy that argument. “He’s already done too many things that give us a clue. I mean, he sent clear, clear multiple signals to the nation of how he thinks and how he will act. … I already see where Congress is going, we see where the Kentucky Legislature has gone. It’s going to be a very tough time. So we’re just alerting them that this is not business as usual as he’s used to it. He’s used to a great deal of power, he’s used to a great deal of wealth, and he’s used to being able to intimidate people. So we’re just alerting him. It’s not a threat, it wasn’t a hate march. It was a march that said, ‘We’re here. You’ve need to realize you’ve got to take the people into consideration,’” Rentch said. “Even his inaugural speech, to me, was very divisive. It was a very dark inaugural speech. … It was all doom and gloom, and America is awful, and he’s going to make it great again. And I think America is great, and I think he’s pandering to the people who voted for him, unfortunately, and he’s leaving the rest of America out,” Shelton said. Both women said the rally was very peaceful. “Everybody was helping everyone. If you were trying to get up on a ledge so you could see better, people were giving you a hand up,” Shelton said. “It was very unifying and very comforting to me, to know that there were that many people out there that are as upset and worried about this, about the Trump Administration and what he stands, for as I do.” The day after the Women’s March, President Trump tweeted, “Watched protests yesterday but was under the impression that we just had an election! Why didn’t these people vote? Celebs hurt cause badly.” Rentch said she believed most of the protestors did vote. “I mean, there weren’t more than three million people in the march, and we know that (Hillary Clinton) had … three million more votes than he did. I would suggest that everyone I know who went not only voted, but was actively involved in the elections,” Rentch said. Less than two hours later, the President tweeted, “Peaceful protests are a hallmark of our democracy. Even if I don’t always agree, I recognize the rights of people to express their views.” Rentch said she woke up the morning after the rally thinking about the Arab Spring, the revolution that began in Egypt and was followed by a great deal of repression and bloodshed. “We know there’s no action without reaction, so I know we have to get about the task of what’s going to protect us from that, and what’s going to protect the Democracy. … I believe the message of love is greater than hate, and justice will stand,” Rentch said. Shelton said she hopes Kentuckians worried about President Trump’s agenda will express their views to Kentucky’s U.S. Senators, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul. “We all need to do this and not just talk about it,” Shelton said.