Students and faculty lead march

Photos contributed by participants of The March for Equality and Social Justice.

Story by Lindsey Coleman, Staff writer

A local group of activists planned the March for Equality and Social Justice to take place on Saturday, Jan. 21 in light of the recent Presidential election.

Tim Johns, media coordinator for the event, said the mission statement for the march is as follows: “The March for Equality and Social Justice is a celebration of the principles of democracy, a demonstration of solidarity with the disenfranchised and a demand of our government/leaders that they uphold the United States constitution and be accountable to those principles of equality and justice for all.”

He said many of the president-elect supporters think Trump’s controversial rhetoric will not effect his policy making. He said those planning the march are skeptical, vigilant and proactive.

“We will not remain silent or fearful in light of threats against democratic values and the rule of law,” Johns said. “We hope that our march will help the Murray community and beyond understands this.”

He said the march is not to be viewed as a protest against anyone. Instead, he said it is a celebration of democratic principles and values achieved in America.

Students and faculty prepare for the March for Equality and Social Justice.

The idea for the march originated from Murray State faculty member Sarah Gutwirth and her husband.

“My husband, Peter Murphy, and I were discussing our sense that the particular political events and discourse of the last year required us, as concerned citizens, to take some kind of political action,” Gutwirth said. “We decided a march to coincide with the National Women’s march was a good idea.”

Planning began around Thanksgiving and Gutwirth said around 40 people attended a preliminary meeting in support of the march. From there, students, faculty, staff members and community members joined together to plan and promote the march.

“We hope the march is just the first and the most symbolic stage in a program of real commitment to social change and positive social activism for causes we believe in, like equality of opportunity, equal pay for equal work, absence of racial and religious, ethnic or sexual identity discrimination, living wage and labor unions and social programs that support seniors and the needy among others,” Gutwirth said.

Although Gutwirth said the language of 2016’s presidential campaign left many people feeling threatened and alienated for their racial, ethnic or gender identity, she said this march can offer a sense of restoration.

“The purpose of this march is to make a beginning to build back a sense of a country where we can all belong and feel valued and proud to be citizens,” Gutwirth said. “We believe in the dream of Martin Luther King, in the immigrant’s’ dream of a multicultural multi-ethnic America, in Barack Obama’s dream of a United States of Hope.”

Elaina Barnett, senior from Shelbyville, Kentucky, has been involved in the planning of the march and lead the Student Liaison Committee. She said her participation in this event stemmed from a need for empathy and compassion instead of hate rhetoric.

As a student, Barnett said she hopes her peers will participate in the march and take part in social activism and action instead of just talk and slander.

“We have to take accountability for our actions or lack of them, and we have to educate ourselves so our actions and words are a choice and true reflection of our compassionate ideals, not just a mindless reflection of our community, family, friend group, or favorite social media page,” Barnett said. “We did not make this world this way, but we have to hold ourselves accountable for what happens now, because now we are becoming active independent players in how this society and world functions.”

Johns said anyone interested is invited to attend. Participants will meet in the Faculty Hall parking lot at 10 a.m., and the event will conclude at the court square around noon.

After the march, individuals such as Brian Clardy, professor of English and philosophy, will speak and regional musicians such as Fate McAfee and Melanie Davis will perform at the court square, Johns said.