By Leslie H. Dixon
OTISFIELD — Lee Dassler has a seat on the bus.
The Otisfield resident will joins hundreds of thousands of others who will descend on Washington, D.C., on Saturday, Jan. 21, the day after President-elect Donald Trump is inaugurated as the nation’s 45th president, to send a “bold message” to the incoming administration: “Women’s rights are human rights.”
Organizers are anticipating 200,000 from across the country to attend the Women’s March on Washington, joining veteran activists such Gloria Steinem and Harry Belafonte, and many others to take a stand against the new administration’s proposed policy changes.
Dassler, along with eight members of the The First Universalist Church of Norway and an estimated several thousand more Mainers, will board buses or join carpools to be in Washington, D.C., for the Jan. 21 event.
Dassler is no novice when it comes to driving on a bus all night to march in protest all day before boarding the bus for the long ride home. In her 20s she marched for many of the causes and rights that she says the incoming administration threatens to reverse.
Now 60 years old and still passionate about causes, getting on the bus for the 12-hour trip to the nation’s capital was not on her list of things to do this weekend. That is until friends of hers, the Zillinskys of Otisfield, asked her to take their place when they were unable to go.
“That did it for me,” she said of the opportunity to participate in the grassroots, nationwide effort.
But by then, most buses, including the one leaving from Auburn, were filled to capacity. But, as good karma would have it, a woman who had signed up for the Auburn bus posted on Facebook that she was unable to go and wanted someone to take her place.
Dassler got the seat on the bus.
Tomorrow night, Friday, Jan. 20, at 8 p.m. just hours after Trump takes the oath of office, she will be on her way to the nation’s capital to participate in the three-hour rally and march that will include a program featuring nationally recognized advocates, artists, entertainers, entrepreneurs and others.
“I turned 60 on January 15th and am proud to have a seat on the bus and to represent the Zilinskys and all my friends here who are shocked by Trump’s blatant misogyny and appalled by proposals to repeal the ACA without a replacement in place, stop federal funding to Planned Parenthood, threaten women’s reproductive rights, just for starters,” said Dassler of her zeal to have a voice in the future.
“His cabinet choices, his denial of climate change, proposals to weaken or close down entire federal agencies, his views on immigrants and refugees, his refusal to disclose his taxes, the mire of business conflicts of interest, the inherent nepotism, the list is endless,” she continued.
“January 21st will be one day, but we need to prepare to be marching/writing/protesting for the next four years. Our Constitution and our constitutional rights are under direct attack,” she said.
Those who can not get to Washington will have an opportunity to join a sister rally at the State Capital in Augusta on Jan. 21, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. A vigil is also taking place on the same day in Brunswick at the Town Common beside Tontine Mall at 149 Maine St.
“We want to show people that people want to band together and stand up for all the groups that have been marginalized by the upcoming presidential administration,” said members of the First Universalist Church’s Social Justice Committee on their webpage. “Those groups include women, immigrants, the disabled, the LGBTQ community, and climate change advocates, among others. It is not limited to women.”