‘March on Lansing’ is grassroots response against intolerance

Jan 19, 2017

Donald Trump’s rise to the presidency has become one of the most polarizing events in modern American history.  While some will celebrate his inauguration Friday, others will protest the social climate for which they believe Trump is largely responsible. 

 

As thousands march in Washington on Saturday, Lansing will see a similar demonstration at the State Capitol.  WKAR's Kevin Lavery reports on the "March on Lansing."

 

Chad Guerrant was born with a name that has shaped his destiny.  Guerrant.  The French word for “warrior.”

“My father always taught me to make sure to be that first one, to be that first leader and that first warrior,” Guerrant says.  “ So yes, (Kevin)...I am a warrior.”

Guerrant’s battlefield is social justice.  He began in 2008 as a student volunteer on Barack Obama’s first presidential campaign.  He’s been a community organizer and has been involved in mayoral and gubernatorial campaigns.  Now, Chad Guerrant is helping coordinate Saturday’s March on Lansing.

The impetus began shortly after Election Night, when political novice Donald Trump stunned many Michiganders by clinching the closest presidential election victory in the state’s history.  For them, the shifting political climate is cause for alarm...and action.

“It was one of those moments in time where I think that there were a lot of people saying the same thing to themselves, and I just kind of asked the right question at the right time, says march co-organizer Meg McElhone.

One day, McElhone got on the Pantsuit Nation Facebook site and asked local members if they wanted to march in Lansing in solidarity with the national Women’s March on Washington the same day.  

The post, in McElhone’s words, exploded.  

The issues that unite and divide Michiganders are many.  McElhone hopes the event will be a forum to launch an array of initiatives, many of which pertain to women.  She’d like to see more opportunities for women to have safe and affordable abortions.  And, she wants Obamacare to remain intact.

“I think those two are the biggest problems that we could face in the near future, and I know there ‘s thousands, millions of people on the ACA that would just completely lose coverage and without access to health care, it’s devastation,” she says.

Voter access, immigration and refugees, emergency management and the living wage are also expected to be hot-button topics on Saturday.

Co-organizer Sarah Eisenberg says she saw a wave of energy -- and a wave of hate and intolerance -- flow across the country after the election.  She wants to see more Michiganders catch the civic engagement spark.  

“People are starting to say, I’m not willing to sit on my couch and watch things happen anymore; I want to get involved, I want to do something,” Eisenberg observes.  “We we want to harness that energy into ongoing, meaningful engagement by average, everyday citizens whose rights and needs are often being ignored.”

 

Chad Guerrant agrees.  Many of the same issues that first ignited his activism remain with him today: enabling students, African-Americans, and persons of low income.

“The individual in one part of the neighborhood should have the same access to all health care funding and fundamental education access as everyone else across the city,” says Guerrant.  “It doesn’t matter where you actually live, but it matters what you’re fighting for at that point in time.”

The March on Lansing is not actually going to be a march.  Not anymore.  Eisenberg says her team couldn’t come up with the $5 million fee the city of Lansing imposes to cover insurance liability.

Instead, the two-hour rally will feature a stable of speakers, headlined by former state senator and Ingham County prosecutor Gretchen Whitmer, who’s since thrown her hat into the 2018 governor’s race.

Whether Whitmer wins the state’s top job or not, organizer Sarah Eisenberg says she’ll devote her time to electing officeholders who will listen to the citizens of Michigan...both now, and into the future.

“I’m a parent,” she says.  “I’m trying to raise a child here.  I want to be able to raise my son in a state that I can be proud to call home, and where he can get the best upbringing possible; educationally, socially.  He deserves that.”

The March on Lansing begins Saturday at 1 p.m. at the Michigan State Capitol.