2017 was a year defined by protest, both across the United States and closer to home.
The year had hardly begun when hundreds in Corvallis and Albany gathered to protest the repeal of the Affordable Care Act in January. Later that month a handful of local women were among the estimated half a million people to join the Women’s March in Washington, D.C., which came a day after the inauguration of President Donald Trump.
Stefani McRae-Dickey, who lives outside Philomath, told the Gazette-Times she participated in the march because she believes in standing up to bullies like Trump.
“(The march) was inspiring. It was energizing. It was one of the most phenomenal events I have ever attended,” said Stefani McRae-Dickey, who lives outside Philomath, told the paper a day after participating in the march in Washington with her daughters.
A busy month of protests continued at the end of January as a massive rally to protest Trump’s first executive order on immigration was held on the Benton County Courthouse steps, just a few days after the order was issued. The Gazette-Times counted around 500 people at the protest.
Though numbering about two dozen, a group of students protesting allegedly racist building names on campus at Oregon State University were highly visible: the group interrupted classes over a week in late February and early March by marching through buildings with a bullhorn. And two of the four buildings targeted by the students were renamed in November by OSU President Ed Ray.
In March a group of students at OSU also interrupted a meeting by the university's board of trustees, forcing the university to delay a vote to increase tuition for more than a month, but the increase was later approved by the trustees.
Perhaps the largest local protest of the year came in April, where the Corvallis iteration of the March for Science drew around 4,000 to 5,000 people, according to estimates from the event’s organizers. The rally was billed as a non-partisan way of advocating for science to be used in policymaking, although the Trump administration’s decisions to reverse policies intended to slow climate change were a particular focus for many protesters.
The second half of 2017 was slower for protests than the first half, although Benton County residents still showed up for causes they believed, such as at a protest of the Jordan World Circus in October by animal welfare advocates.
Local progressives are hoping to continue a spirit of activism into 2018, starting with a Corvallis Women’s Rally on the anniversary of the 2017 Women’s March.
The event, sponsored by the Corvallis Changemakers, the Mid-Willamette National Organization for Women and Corvallis-Albany branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, is scheduled for 1 p.m., Jan. 20, in Corvallis’ Central Park.
Bouquet Harger, one of the group of organizers behind the event, said the event is intended to inspire people to be politically active and take action in the coming year.
“This past year, speaking from my own experience, has been very tiring,” she said, adding that people are getting fatigued after near-daily bad news. “We need something to remind us of what we are doing and inspire us to keep things going.”
The event’s speaker roster will include Melissa Bird, a public speaker and advocacy coach; Ada-Rhodes Short, the facilitator of Corvallis Trans Support; Nasim Basiri, an Iranian feminist poet and women’s rights activist; Jill McCallister, senior minister with the Corvallis Unitarian Universalist Fellowship; Luhui Whitebear, an enrolled member of the Coastal Band of the Chumash Nation and a second-year doctoral student at OSU; Shelley Moon, the senior vice president of the Corvallis-Albany NAACP; and Court Nicholas, the first person in Benton County to be legally recognized as non-binary.
Harger, who is part of Corvallis Changemakers, said the event is very grass-roots and as many as 20 different people from a variety of groups have been involved in helping make it happen. It also is being funded by donation, and so far has raised about $1,300 through a GoFundMe.com page. Harger said the funds will be used for a sound system, stage at the event and other logistical costs of putting on the event.
She added that they are hoping to get about 350 to 500 people to attend.