Phoenix Women's March 2019 draws support from ASU student organizations

Multiple ASU-affiliated groups plan to attend the march at the Arizona Capitol later this week

The Arizona Capitol is expected to be flooded with a sea of pink hats and homemade protest signs for the third annual Phoenix Women’s March on Saturday, Jan. 19.

The event boasts support from a number of political organizations around Arizona, some affiliated with ASU such as ASU Young Democrats, Defend Our Future and Planned Parenthood Generation Action at ASU.

A 2018 Cronkite News article reported that while young Arizonans are “casting ballots at more than three times the rate they did in 2014,” they still have yet to reach the turnout rates achieved by older voters.

David Huff, a third-year student studying political science and biological sciences and president of ASU Young Democrats, said the organization’s primary goal this year in attending the march is to increase college students’ political involvement.

“We want to get as many of our (members) and students on campus to go to the march,” he said. “Making sure that they really take away from that experience, the wishes, the issues women are facing — especially policy-wise here in Arizona — and that this activism should be the point that spurs them to really get involved civically.”

Mariana Pena, a third-year political science student and the executive vice president of ASU Young Democrats, said that large-scale political demonstrations like the Women’s March can help fuel students’ passion for political engagement outside of just voting.

“Being in those spaces, it's reassuring when you're doing this hard work sometimes,” she said. “When you're canvassing in that 120 degree weather (you’re) able to remember ... moments like the Women's March, of when you were all together and able to have those celebratory moments. It gets you to that next door.”

Nick Petrusek, an ASU alumnus and the Arizona regional campus director for Defend Our Future, said that beyond the group’s core goal of effecting legislation regarding climate change, he hopes the march will help young people find a sense of comfort participating in politics.

“The political process, becoming engaged, becoming active, isn't something that's scary,” he said. “There are a lot of opportunities out there to make your voice heard, be a part of a larger community and see how many like minds there are in the communities that you have.”

The Phoenix Women’s March saw between 20,000 to 25,000 participants in 2017 and 2018 respectively, according to police estimates. As of Monday evening, 11.5 thousand Facebook users have responded either "going" or "interested in going" on this year’s official Facebook event page.

While these lower numbers may not be indicative of Saturday’s actual turnout, activists across the nation have called for boycotts of all Women’s March events due to accusations of anti-Semitism and a lack of trans-inclusivity and diversity.

The 2018 Phoenix Women’s March had a controversy of its own when invited speaker and current Arizona House of Representatives member Jennifer Longdon (D-24) did not receive the proper equipment to get onstage in her wheelchair. Longdon spoke about her disheartening experience at Bar Flies Boot Camp in January 2018.

ASU Republican student organization College Republicans United took to social media to voice its aversion to the march, as well as promote its own #MeToo event on Feb. 26 to hear the story of Juanita Broaddrick, who accused President Bill Clinton of sexual assault in 1999.

Christine Jones, former Republican gubernatorial and Congressional candidate and current chief operating officer for the Prostate Cancer Foundation, said she has not attended any previous Women’s March events but that college students play a pivotal role in advocacy. 

“If you look back historically you will find that many of these movements start in and through college students leadership," she said. "I'm a huge advocate for young, particularly women, leading in these instances.”

Jones, who gave a lecture at ASU on Monday about female leadership and advocacy, said political activism should center around a more specific purpose, citing the Red for Ed movement.

“If you're going to be a leader in that kind of movement, you have to decide what you want your goal to be,” she said. “Women's advocacy could take on a whole lot of different meanings. You may be inclined to advocate for equality in pay. You might be inclined to advocate for equality in positioning, hiring, housing, health care – there are lots of things that we could put there. If one of those was your stated goal and you were advocating for that and leading people to gather to accomplish that, I'm all for that.”

Pena said this year’s march is about more than action, by serving as a time to reflect on gains made by Arizona Democrats in the 2018 midterm elections.

“This year it's a combination of continuing on with that solidarity but also really focusing on having a moment of celebration in some ways and of continued resistance. Also, making sure that we celebrate the gains that we made during this time,” she said. 

Angelina Luangphon, a sophomore marketing major and intern with Defend Our Future, said the action of marching itself can be powerful enough to enact change.

“I think for me as an intern and as a student and as somebody who was not politically involved before I joined Defend Our Future, it's just to go out and be excited and to show that being out there is going to make change,” she said. “Being together and marching for one purpose, it'll have a big impact.”


Reach the reporter at mrobbin9@asu.edu or follow @MelissaARobbins on Twitter.

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