Geneva, NY – In this small city of barely 13,000 people, over a hundred took the streets on Oct. 4 as part of the nationwide walkout to #Cancel Kavanaugh. They brought pots and pans, horns and tambourines, occupying three sides of an overpass over a major state highway. The noisy, energetic crowd then took the streets as they marched through the city to the offices of Republican member of Congress Tom Reed and on to the Public Safety Building, the headquarters of the Geneva Police Department. At each stop, women spoke about their experiences of sexual harassment, domestic violence, stalking, and abuse. The crowd chanted its support, shaming abusers and believing survivors.
Community member Shawn Marie Jones read a poem about the challenges facing women in small towns who encounter their abusers regularly: “It’s not so easy to call out those who have continuously caused harm, yet waltz around loved, just the same.”
Local college student Swellar Zhuo reminded the crowd: “Congress belongs to us. The presidency belongs to us.” People together can fight back. “When we are pushed, we will push back two times harder,” she said.
Maureen North, resident of Shortsville, NY, a nearby town, took the bus into Geneva to join the protest. As someone who lives in a conservative area with a conservative family, she explained, she values the opportunity to speak out against a Supreme Court nominee with a record as abysmal as Kavanaugh’s. The likelihood that his appointment will lead to the overturning of Roe v. Wade is particularly burdensome on rural and poor women. The steady erosion of women’s right to bodily autonomy has meant that access to abortions and reproductive health services is virtually unattainable for many who need them. Clinics are far away. Reaching them can depend on having a car or reliable public transportation and require taking time off from work or securing childcare for other children.
The walkout was organized by the Geneva Women’s Assembly. Noting the increased police presence and the apprehension of Congressman Reed’s office staff, GWA organizer Laura Salamendra was upbeat. “We can definitely say that the revolution is coming to Geneva,” she said. “We’ve got our own counter-revolution!” Salamendra added that the success of GWA’s work in Geneva should be a model for other small communities. “Just imagine if there were a hundred people on the streets in every small town in the country? We do it in Geneva with just a handful of organizers. People need to be doing this everywhere. That’s what ‘stand up, fight back’ means.”