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Thursday, Jan. 26, 2017 12:06 am

After successful rally, Call 2 Action plans next event

Protester in attendance accompanied with a sign honoring late activist and actress Carrie Fisher.
PHOTOS BY ALEX CAMP

 

Over 1,000 people gathered on Jan. 21 near the Old State Capitol to protest in solidarity with the women marches across the country, such as those in Washington, D.C., and Chicago.

The event was sponsored by Springfield Call 2 Action, a local alliance of organizations that advocates for social justice issues. “It’s a bunch of nonprofit organizations that are bound to work together, and that’s the whole idea,” said Jim Dixon, president of the Call 2 Action. “We all have a lot of common interests, and we want to be there for each other to support whenever we can.”

The theme for the rally was unity, as politicians and groups from Black Lives Matter, the Springfield Education Association, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) and Planned Parenthood spoke out in support of racial, gendered, educational, sexual orientation, environmental, health care and economic rights. “We knew that there was going to be women marches, so we decided that we should do something that would be in coordination with the marches, about protecting the rights of everybody,” said Dixon.

Springfield Call 2 Action’s next event will be the Community Involvement Fair on March 4. “This is an event where people can come and find out about a whole bunch of different organizations in Springfield that were a part of this rally,” said Dixon. “There, they can see what’s going on and find out how they can participate in this community.”

Carol Ammons, a Democrat state representative from Urbana, directed her speech to President Donald Trump. “We will not be silent,” Ammons said. She lamented how Trump’s campaign pitted numerous social groups against each other. “We will not stand aside and allow you to divide and conquer us the way you did in the last presidential election,” Ammons said. “We’re not doing that anymore. This is the end of that. Today is our birth of a new democratic system.”  

Kate Jamruk, retiree coordinator for AFSCME, told a story which demonstrated the impact that the current push by Congress to change Medicare has had. “I received a call last week from a 94-year-old woman named Cindy, and when I said hello and asked how I could help her, she started crying,” said Jamruk. “After a moment of tears and a moment of silence, she mentioned to me that she couldn’t sleep because she didn’t know how to pay for her heart medication if Medicare was changed.”

Jamruk then addressed lawmakers threatening to cut Medicare spending. “Let me say this loudly to all those who threatened these vital programs. Keep your coupons in the grocery store! Medicare isn’t a charity. Medicare is earned,” she said. “To take away this care and dress up these cuts, and confusing seniors by calling this the premium support system, disrespects the men and women who built, served and maintained this country.”  

Brigid Leahy, lobbyist for Planned Parenthood Illinois Action, reminded the crowd that the Trump administration intended to defund the reproductive health organization. “Let me tell you what defunding Planned Parenthood really means. It means blocking patients coming into Planned Parenthood from care,” said Leahy. “The people who will be hurt from this? It’s people who already face challenges getting health care, people with low incomes, people of color and people from rural areas.” Leahy then associated the obstacles Planned Parenthood shared with the Affordable Care Act, before declaring that health care is a human right. “It shouldn’t matter where you live, how much money you have, who you love or what you look like,” Leahy said. “You deserve affordable, compassionate care.”

The event’s final speaker was U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin. Durbin acknowledged that the months since the election had been a painful time for those in the audience. However, Durbin challenged the crowd to a call to action moving forward. “My advice is this. Don’t agonize, organize. Don’t register your contempt, register your neighbor. Don’t wring your hands, ring the doorbells of your neighborhoods,” said Durbin. “Can we take America back? Can we do this together? Let’s start today.”

Angie Mentjes, who was among the protesters, explained why she went to the rally. “I have lived in Springfield for about 16 years, and I am Hispanic so it was very important to me to support equal rights for all. It hits home to me,” she said. Mentjes acknowledged that the inauguration of President Trump was difficult to watch; however, she added that the unity rally inspired her to make a difference in her community. “I’m very excited to go out there and make change,” said Mentjes. “We don’t do enough of that. We get busy with our lives, and things get passed over, but we really need to step in and make that change, so everyone can have a better chance in life.”

Alex Camp is an editorial intern at Illinois Times. He is pursuing his master’s degree at University of Illinois Springfield. Contact him at intern@illinoistimes.com.

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