Students, teachers hit streets of Washington

Meera Rothman and Meher Hans

Senior Michael Gonglewski and sophomore Annaliese Colins each set their alarms for 5 a.m. the week of Donald Trump’s inauguration.

Gonglewski, a long-time supporter of the new president, headed to D.C. Jan. 20 for the swearing in ceremony.  Colins trekked to D.C. for a different reason—the Women’s March on Washington Jan. 21.

Colins found herself immersed in a sea of pink hats and bold signs, while Gonglewski made his way through crowds of iconic red hats, clapping and cheering.

Donald Trump’s election and early actions in office have spurred political involvement from students and staff from both ends of the spectrum. The inauguration, Women’s March, Pro-life March, B1 demonstration and unorganized marches have proved to be most popular.

Gonglewski had been working on the Trump campaign since March 2016, making phone calls from a regional office in Pikesville every other Saturday morning.

“I feel like Trump laid forward a plan,” Gonglewski said, explaining Trump’s appeal. “We’re going to try to unite and fix the problems we have now.”

Gonglewski said he’s always wanted to go to an inauguration “to see the spectacle of it.” The ceremony included military bands, marching bands, and speeches from the president and vice president.

“While the speeches were going on, there were some protestors scattered around. They said ‘you’re racist!’ and ‘you’re fascists!’ The response would be ‘Get over it, he won. Stop crying.’ The normal back-and-forth.”

Colins joined an estimated 500,000 protestors the next morning. She travelled to the march with about seventy others from Planned Parenthood, where she is a peer educator.

“It was amazing getting there at six in the morning and just feeling that tingly excitement like a kid before Christmas. You’re just waiting, everything’s quiet, and you know this is the calm before the storm,” Colins said.

Science teacher Laura Braly also attended the march, wearing a shirt she made that says “I march for my family, my faith, my students, those who are afraid.”

“I march for my family because my family is so diverse,” Braly said. “And I put ‘for my faith’ because my version of Christianity is not a version that includes hating people. I put ‘for my students’ because they matter a lot to me. The last one was ‘for those who are afraid’ because someone needs to stand up and march for people who are afraid to march,” Braly said. Braly sponsors SPECTRUM, an after-school club here that regularly discusses sexual orientation, gender identity and other issues facing the LGBTQ+ community.

Like others, senior Jenny Peterson said the march was a launching point for further political action.

“I joined the ‘10 Actions for the First 100 Days’ campaign launched by the Women’s March on Washington team where every 10 days, followers take action on a certain issue,” Peterson said.

Peterson wrote a postcard to Senator Chris Van Hollen about the future of women’s health care and the deleterious impact of defunding Planned Parenthood, she said.

Physics teacher Cristina Reitmeyer, who also attended the women’s march, has also taken action since attending the march by calling and sending postcards to senators every week.

“This election reminded me that I can’t just sit back and let other people make choices for me,” Reitmeyer said. “I have nothing against our president. It’s about making sure that we continue to protect all smaller groups.”

In the weeks after the inauguration and women’s march, students have continued actively participating in D.C. events. Senior Claire Podles attended the annual March for Life Jan. 27.

“I wanted to march in solidarity with all the other people who believe the same thing I do especially since the pro-life movement is so big in government right now,” Podles said, noting that her opinions are often silenced in other settings.

Seniors Julia Clark and Alex Stocksdale partook in B1, a nonpartisan project Feb. 1 intended to unite people through art.

“This election has really deeply divided our country and there’s been a lot of debate over what values the country was founded on,” Clark said.

Senior and Griffin staff writer Christina Panousos’s mother launched the project Nov. 2016. Participants painted signs on bedsheets with messages that promoted values of love, acceptance and unity. Clark and Stocksdale were among 12 students who traveled to the nation’s capital Feb. 1 to make a statement with banners held up near the White House.

“It was really inspiring to see all the artwork,” Stocksdale said, adding that the group received about 40 banners in all. Some pedestrians passing by joined the event and stopped to hold up the banners for hours at a time.

Senior Caroline Surak spontaneously attended a march against the Muslim ban on a trip to D.C. Feb. 4.

“We were having lunch and when we walked out, we saw a bunch of people with signs and we just jumped in,” Surak said. She marched for several hours, starting in front of the Trump hotel and walking to the Capitol Building.

“Peaceful marches and protests have a very positive energy,” Surak said. “They let people know that their opinions are valid and that they’re not alone.”

Editor-in-chief Julie Chotivatanapong, managing editor Emma Walz, associate editor Matt Ellis and staff writers Jane Peterson and Emily Williams contributed to this story.