Jennifer Brincks is the daughter of
She teaches children with special
needs. She believes in women’s rights. She believes in the
protection of black lives. She believes in the importance of
For all of those reasons and more,
Brincks, 61, donned a pink hat, hopped on a bus last Friday and
traveled to Washington, D.C., to take part in the Women’s March
“I don’t want to step back in time
and revert,” she said. “I just want to step forward.
“The future looks a little bleak.”
The march took place the day after
Donald Trump became president, but Brincks said it was important, for
her, not to attend an anti-inauguration march. She had plenty of
other reasons to attend.
She was one of several Carroll
residents who traveled either to Washington, D.C., or to Des Moines —
or elsewhere — to participate in the marches.
“This historical date is now set,”
Brincks said of the date of the march, Jan. 21. “It wasn’t just a
moment. It’s now a movement. How amazing it is that the world came
together on this date to declare our rights.”
‘Speak for the voiceless’
The Women’s March, which organizers
said began as a small movement to advocate for women’s rights, grew
also to represent immigrants and refugees, people of color, people
with disabilities, LGBT people and more.
“Sister marches” were held in
cities in every U.S. state as well as in countries around the world.
A small group holding signs and marching in Antarctica brought the
number of participating continents to seven. Total estimates indicate
that millions of people participated around the world.
Des Moines played host to many in Iowa
who wanted to march but couldn’t make it to Washington, D.C.
Organizers estimated 26,000 people marched around the Iowa State
Among those were
Barry and Mary Bruner, who live in Carroll, along with Mary’s
mother, Margaret Gronstal, the Bruners’ sons, Ryan and Ben, and
Ben’s wife, Lena, and their daughter Devereux.
Gronstal, 88, is no stranger to
demonstrating. While teaching at St. Lawrence in Carroll in the ’60s,
she took her small eighth-grade religion class to the Carroll County
Courthouse, where they marched in protest of the Vietnam War.
On Saturday, the group she marched with
around the Iowa State Capitol was much larger.
The Bruners said they enjoyed standing
with a crowd of people of all ages, colors and sexual orientations.
“It was touching to see people with
different agendas, different hopes and dreams with a common goal —
we want to make it a better world,” Mary Bruner said.
And they particularly enjoyed hearing
Earth Mama’s “Standing on the Shoulders” played.
It’s the song they play at their
Kathy Francis, 65, of Carroll was
there, too, along with her husband, Richard Francis.
Kathy wore a pink hat and carried a
sign quoting Albus Dumbledore from “Harry Potter” — “Dark
times lie ahead of us, and there will be a time when we must choose
between what is easy and what is right.”
Just days before, she’d read “March,”
the three-part graphic novel series by civil rights leader John Lewis
about the Civil Rights movement.
When she finished those books, she
said, she knew she had to participate in the Women’s March.
For her, the experience was about
support in numbers.
“Bullies want the people they want to
pick on to feel like they’re all alone, and there’s no one else,”
she said. “And we aren’t alone. We saw that.
“We’re not alone, and we can’t
forget that. We can’t let the people who want to hurt us forget
that we aren’t alone.”
Also in the Des Moines crowd was Erin
Stohlmeyer, 35, of Manning. She attended in part because she is
concerned about support for public education in the future and said
she appreciated that the “sister march” provided an opportunity
to demonstrate in Iowa.
“I know some people wished they’d
been in D.C., but I also think it was important to show your support
locally, to go and be counted,” she said.
The Bruners said they plan to continue
to implement the march’s ideas in Carroll — as they have for
“My parents modeled to me that you
speak for the voiceless, speak for the people who need your help, if
you have the power to do that,” said Mary Bruner, 65. “Locally,
those in need are invisible to us, because we want to think
everything is good. Locally, we need to find people who want to bring
They noted that the Women’s March
ideas need to continue beyond last Saturday.
“Our communities are too small not to
have everybody interested and involved in their communities,” said
Barry Bruner, 65. “This community, the schools, the churches, the
groups need to pull together for the good of our community. Carroll
might think it’s strong and healthy, but if we don’t work
together, it’s not going to stay that way.”
Gronstal agreed — she’s been
speaking out for years.
“Nothing changes without action,”
Some around the country, including
Republican politicians, derided the marches as thinly veiled abortion
marches rather than demonstrations announcing support and demanding
equal rights for marginalized groups.
In Indiana, Sen. Jack Sandlin shared a
photo on Facebook describing the protesters as “fat women out
walking.” He later said it must have been a mistake.
In New Mexico, Carlsbad City Councilman
J.R. Doporto posted on Facebook that women have “a right to cook
and a right to clean,” and “a right to get slapped.” He later
said it was a joke.
Carroll County Republican Party
Chairman Craig Williams declined to comment for this article.
Mark Segebart, a Republican state
senator from Vail who represents Carroll County and several others,
said he supports Americans’ right to speak out after an election,
as has happened many times throughout history.
“But the importance of an election
needs to shine through,” he added. “We have some respected
traditions, and the transfer of power in a civil way is an important
part of our country. To throw that under the bus is disturbing to a
lot of people.”
He noted that Trump’s actions and
decisions in the past week — building a wall between the U.S. and
Mexican borders and moving to block Syrian refugees from entering the
country both have been discussed, among many others — are making
many of Trump’s voters happy.
“He’s keeping good on many of his
promises,” Segebart said.
As for those in various groups,
including women, minorities, LGBT people and people with
disabilities, who believe the new administration won’t represent
them, Segebart said, it’s too early to tell how those groups will
be affected and simply to fall back on the Constitution.
“It’s times like these where the
Constitution guides you,” he said. “It protects everyone’s
rights. Without that document, there is a real danger of rights being
stepped on. I’d say the power of the Constitution here is very
important, as is obeying its articles and bylaws.”
State Representative Brian Best, a
Republican from Glidden who represents Carroll County and several
others, also noted that he supports peaceful demonstrations.
He added that if Planned Parenthood is
defunded, he believes there need to be plenty of places in Iowa for
women to get affordable, non-abortion reproductive and health
services, including birth control. He noted that there are more than
200 organizations around the state, both health-related, faith-based
and more, that offer those types of services and said he believes
money that was given to Planned Parenthood should go to those
In many cases, he said, that would
bring those services closer to home.
“We need to make sure that there are
other options,” he said. “The state needs to make them available
to women — many of whom fall through the cracks with their normal
medical insurance. I want to make sure that even if they don’t have
the funds to get it done (with insurance), there are places
‘We can’t stop’
Lori Lange, 57, of Carroll traveled to
the Washington, D.C., march with Brincks.
Estimates for attendees at that march
ranged from 500,000 to more than 1 million.
Lange and Brincks headed first to
eastern Iowa to travel to D.C. with Brincks’ sister, Monica Moehn,
who helped organize the trip, and childhood friend Ann Gronstal. Both
Moehn and Gronstal grew up in Carroll and now live in Iowa City.
They traveled with more than 100 people
to Washington, D.C., where they met up with Lange’s daughter, Emma
Lange, who graduated from Carroll High School in 2012 and now lives
in Washington, D.C. Their group included one man who had been
dropping off his significant other at the bus and decided to join the
trip at the last minute with nothing more than the gym clothes on his
Lange noted that not everyone marching
was there for themselves.
“They were marching for people who
weren’t privileged,” she said. “We need to have compassion for
And this movement isn’t finished, she
“I don’t want people who marched to
think they did their jobs and they’re finished being a voice,
because we can’t stop,” Lange said. “It’s important to pay
attention to what’s happening and to make your voice heard.”
The eastern Iowa group piled onto two
buses Friday afternoon for the 16-hour drive to Washington, D.C. They
left D.C. early the next evening, returning to Iowa City Sunday
That was about 48 hours spent crowded
onto buses and then in the streets of Washington, D.C., with hundreds
of thousands of people. There were few stops, questionable bathroom
facilities, scanty teeth-brushing opportunities and no clothing
Showers weren’t even on the table.
“You felt a little
on the grubby side, but doggone it, it was for a good cause,”