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Despite the rain, women's marchers persist

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For hundreds Saturday in Southern Oregon, a woman’s place was in the rain.

Despite heavy downpours, a crowd of about 1,000 turned out to voice their opposition to the Trump administration at the third annual Women's March of Southern Oregon.

Umbrellas, parkas and plastic-wrapped signs abounded at Hawthorne Park as the crowd braved heavy downpours that pooled water on tents and drenched the crowd.

Marchers of all ages and genders each had their reasons for marching,from the shutdown to chauvinism.

Wearing a poncho and a “pussyhat,” Dasja Dolan, who has been active with Oregon District 2 Indivisible since its formation after the first local women’s march in Ashland, expressed particular concern about the proposed border wall at the center of the government shutdown.

Dolan, a political refugee who fled Soviet-occupied Czechoslovakia in 1969, expressed concern that the United States is growing more isolationist under the Trump administration.

“I know that walls do not keep people away,” said Dolan, who settled in the United States in 1980. “They just cause more problems.”

Susan Smith, who recently moved to Medford from Pennsylvania with her wife, Debbie, said she believes the president’s proposed border wall “is about racism at its core” as she marched along bear creek and over the bridge.

A homemade sign tied to Smith’s umbrella saying “F--- your wall” on one side and “Coming soon: President Pelosi” got tangled in a tree, prompting the help of other marchers.

“She persisted!” Smith joked, referencing the “Nevertheless, she persisted” expression adopted by the feminist movement since 2017 after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell used the phrase to silence Sen. Elizabeth Warren.

The phrase returned after the march in 2018 congressional candidate Jamie McLeod-Skinner’s keynote speech.

“Our country has a proud history of people who persisted,” McLeod-Skinner said, describing efforts from Rosa Parks, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and local high school students involved in the March for Our Lives gun-control rallies.

McLeod-Skinner, who lost the 2018 race to Greg Walden, told people to keep their yard signs.

“In 2019 we build; in 2020 we will win,” said McLeod-Skinner, announcing her campaign.

She pointed to a narrower gap compared to Walden’s previous election victories as signs that she can win with a strategy of focusing on issues that cross party lines like health care.

Another speaker was Lanita Witt, the owner of Willow-Witt Ranch who lost a run for County Commissioner in 2018. She described her narrow loss to Republican Colleen Roberts — less than 7 points according to official Jackson County election results — as “not a bad start.”

Witt said she plans to work to expand the county’s current commissioners board from three to five, describing the problem as neither Democratic nor Republican, but that the current county commission isn’t representing “all of the people of Jackson County.”

“They do not feel our system is broken,” Witt said.

Witt touched on issues plaguing the county, such as the county’s overcrowded jail, but also advocated a need to “address the underlying issues,” mentioning a need for greater mental health and addiction resources.

Although the county has purchased a site, the proposed new jail is still in its earliest stages of getting support from voters.

Looking beyond the county, Witt touched on the solidarity of marching together.

“The knots we tie together today in the rain are very tight,” Witt said.

Reach reporter Nick Morgan at 541-776-4471 at 541-776-4471 or nmorgan@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @MTCrimeBeat.

Andy Atkinson / Mail TribuneThousands marched around Hawthorn Park in downtown Medford Saturday for the Women’s March Southern Oregon 2019.
Andy Atkinson / Mail TribuneFriends poses for a picture before the Women’s March Southern Oregon 2019 at Hawthorn Park in downtown Medford Saturday.
Andy Atkinson / Mail TribuneYoung ladies led the Women’s March Southern Oregon 2019 around Hawthorn Park in downtown Medford Saturday.