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Women's March in Spokane/Toni Niemiec - SpokaneFAVS

Conflicting Causes Surrounding Abortion Bring Their Annual Events to Riverfront Park on the Same Day

By Cassy Benefield

The anti-abortion Walk for Life Northwest and the pro-abortion rights Women+s March on Spokane will bring awareness to their causes on Saturday, Jan. 18, at Riverfront Park, at nearly the same time.

While not unheard of in the past, according to Sgt. John Gately, Spokane’s police officer in charge of special events, he says such convergence of opposing viewpoints is uncommon.

The event planners of the Walk for life applied for the permit first, according to Gately, and their event takes place at the Rotary Fountain Plaza at Howard and Spokane Falls Blvd. It starts technically at 9 a.m. with set up for the 11 a.m. Faire, followed by a speech from Spokane Fatherhood Initiative founder Ron Hausenstein at noon. After his talk, participants will begin their walk.

When the planners of the Women+s March on Spokane asked to have their event on the same day, Gately said he originally encouraged them to pick a different day. They were unable to do so, since they had already had set their plans in motion. He suggested their event start at a later time, then, and take place at a different part of the park.

Their event will take place at 12:30 p.m. at the Red Wagon location and will include live music, several speakers, including Power 2 The Poetry founder, Bethany Montgomery, and a party after the march.

“Each one knows they’re there and made commitments to not be disruptive toward one another,” said Gately. “They’re there to bring awareness to their causes.”

According to Maria Bachman, the Women+s March on Spokane rally director, their organization plans the event to always happen on the third Saturday of the month. These Saturdays are around the anniversary of President Donald Trump’s inauguration on Jan. 21, 2017. It was the day after Trump’s inauguration that this protest movement began.

As for conflicting messages for that day, Bachman said, “We understand there are fundamental disagreements with women’s productive rights, but we are a march that is not only about women’s rights, but human rights.”

She added, “We would request that anyone who is marching for something they believe in would march with the same dignity and respect that we have for their views and make it a peaceful day.”

The Walk for Life organizers chose this date and their dates in the past to align as closely with the anniversary of the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision, which happened on Jan. 22, 1973.

Charlotte Oliva, the Walk for Life director, said this anniversary and not wanting to be on the same weekend as the West Coast Walk for Life event are why Jan. 18 was their date of choice this year.

She said it seems like a coincidence the two events are on the same day when they never have been in the past, and she said the Women+s March crew has been generous in response to this coincidence by providing for all the barricades for both marches that day.

“Obviously, we are standing up for very different causes,” said Oliva. “[Walk for Life] is a pro-life demonstration. The pro-life movement is a non-violent movement that celebrates and works to protect life.”

She added that their hope is to help people find alternate solutions to abortion, and they will host several local providers to share that information with seekers in a non-judgmental way.

“We are not judgmental of women who have an abortion,” said Oliva. “There is forgiveness, new life, new options.”

Gately said his department will also be taking special precautions that day. They will be keeping each group’s attendees in their own areas and will be keeping the walk and the march safe for the people participating.

“We’re hopeful for safe events,” said Gately, “and an understanding that people have different opinions.”

Last year, according to the Spokesman-Review, about 400 people attended the Walk for Life event, and about 3,000 people participated in the Women+s March.

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