"We intend to show the 104th Congress, President Clinton and the nation that a vast majority of people in this country oppose violence against women -- including anti-abortion terrorism and the tyrannical measures of the Republican Contract ON America," said NOW President Patricia Ireland. "Thousands will rally in our nation's capital to send an unmistakable message that we will not allow them to turn back the clock on women's rights."
Activists are working to line up celebrities, musicians and politicians to appear at the rally and a possible benefit concert the night before. They have had several confirmations, and interest in the rally from both MTV and C- SPAN.
Activists from the National Action Center and surrounding area kicked off a 100-day countdown to the rally with a demonstration on Capitol Hill Jan. 4, as the 104th Congress was seated. It drew extensive media attention and a few Republican hecklers. The demonstration was part of the 100 Days of Action by chapters nationwide called for in a resolution passed at NOW's National Board meeting in December.
"Just as a record-breaking mass action kicked off our very successful 1992 Elect Women For A Change campaign, which doubled the number of women in Congress, we are determined to make the 1995 Rally for Women's Lives an organizing force for the '96 elections," Ireland said. "A massive mobilization is just the tool our activists need to counter the Newt Gingrich- lead backlash against the gains we have made."
Later in January, members of NOW's Young Feminist Committee and the Ending Violence Against Women Committee met in Washington to map out the ground work for both the Young Feminist Summit on Violence and the rally. "I've never spent time with a more diverse, enthusiastic group of young women from all over the country in my whole life," said participant Lisa Tripp, a 26-year-old advertising director with Deneuve magazine. "I'm sure it's a sampling of what the Summit will be like. I'm willing to do what it takes to make sure that's the case."
Summit organizers pledged to do outreach to young feminists from Maine to California, on college and high school campuses, and among community groups and labor unions. Their goal is to bring a diversified group of young activists to Washington.
The high-energy, participant-friendly Summit will feature plenary sessions that include both speakers and open microphone time. Working groups and workshops will be issue-oriented, educational and skills building, covering such topics as date/acquaintance rape, sexual harassment in school and on the job, self defense and community organizing.
During the rally weekend April 7-9 participants will have an opportunity to view the first national display of the Clothesline Project. Similar to the AIDS Quilt, it is a visual display of T-shirts with messages about violence against women designed by survivors and their loved ones.
Activists from NOW, the Clothesline Project and other groups will stand together April 9 to demand real remedies to stop all violence against women. With the takeover of Congress by enemies of women's rights, NOW expanded the scope of the rally.
It will also denounce the heartless, anti-women plans for orphanages and for other punitive measures against poor women that right wing Republicans are proposing in the guise of reforms. And in light of the recent attacks on clinics in Massachusetts and Virginia, the mass action will also reaffirm NOW's longstanding commitment to ending violence at clinics that provide abortion services.
"There is a clear connection between violence against women in all its forms and the oppression of women," says NOW Action Vice President Rosemary Dempsey. "Violence is use as a strategy to keep women in their place -- whether it is the harassment that young women face in schools, the experience and threat of rape that restricts our mobility or the murders and beatings of women by intimate partners that is condoned by the judicial system."
For information on bringing a delegation to the rally, accommodations for the weekend or on the Young Feminist Summit activists should contact their chapter or state leaders, or the Rally Office at the National Action Center, 202-331-0066.
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