On Jan. 18, roughly 80 individuals, including Southern students, gathered in Miller Park in Downtown Chattanooga on a wet, chilly Saturday morning to participate in the 2020 Chattanooga Women’s Rally to advocate for an inclusive American culture characterized by civility and respect, according to the rally’s official website.
Coverage from Times Free Press over the past three years shows thousands present in 2018, over 500 in 2019 and only about 100 in 2020.
Contrary to previous years where the event involved participants marching through Downtown Chattanooga, this year’s rally did not include a march and instead was enclosed strictly within the limits of Miller Park.
Junior clinical psychology major Hannah Sbacchi experienced uncertainty as to what the event’s objectives were and what was scheduled to happen. Sbacchi stated poor communication as the main contributor to the confusion.
“The lack of people and weather put a damper on the whole thing. But it was very hard to know what was happening because there was no communication,” Sbacchi said.
According to the Chattanooga Women’s Rally website, the mission of the 2020 event was to harness the political power of the diverse women of Chattanooga for transformation and inclusive change, as well as celebrate the 100th anniversary of the passing of the 19th Amendment.
Junior social work major Mahlet Valdez attended the event with other members of the School of Social Work to serve as volunteers. Valdez’ expectations for the rally were different from what she experienced.
“Since it was my first time attending this event, I thought it was going to be more like a women’s march,” Valdez said. “But it was actually a women’s rally celebrating the 100th anniversary of women’s right to vote.”
However, due to the event occurring on the same day as the Women’s March in Washington D.C., along with other marches across the country, responses varied regarding the different agenda of the Chattanooga rally.
Organizations that were originally scheduled to appear at the rally expressed opinions over the new agenda in comparison to previous years.
According to a schedule posted by The Chattanoogan on Friday, Jan. 10, non-profit organization La Paz Chattanooga was expected to be present at the event. However, La Paz later announced via Twitter on Thursday, Jan. 16, that it would not be participating in the 2020 Chattanooga Women’s Rally.
“La Paz’s mission is to empower and engage our city’s Latinx community, and we will continue to seek opportunities to fulfill that mission,” La Paz said via Twitter.
La Paz was unavailable for further comment on the non profit’s withdrawal from the rally.
Responses from Southern students who were present varied in regards to the success of the Chattanooga Women’s Rally.
“This event was very motivational for me. Not only did they have amazing speakers from different backgrounds, but they also had booths to encourage people to vote,” Valdez said.
According to junior clinical psychology major Chloe Bastajian, the atmosphere at this year’s rally differed significantly in terms of speakers, turn-out numbers and energy.
“[Last year], there was actually a march. There were no Republican speakers last year like there was this year. In general, last year was more organized. I felt like we actually contributed to society. I was doing my civic duty,” Bastajian said. “Personally, I thought the event was a bust. I was disappointed because they [the Women’s Rally] weren’t upset enough or driven enough to go out and fight for women who actually need to be fought for.”
Despite the various opinions regarding the atmosphere and the elements of the event, speakers reiterated the main objective of the rally to remind participants why they were there.
Carol Berz, one of the speakers for the Women’s Rally and co-chair of the Mayor’s Council for Women, said, “The issues we deal with aren’t Republican or Democrat, they’re human. And we need to all pull together.”