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Northland women to march in Washington

President-elect Donald Trump delivered brief remarks to reporters at the Mar-a-lago Club in Palm Beach, Florida, U.S. December 28, 2016. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

Sitting on couches in the Red Herring Lounge's basement on Wednesday, women were talking logistics of meeting up in Washington, D.C.

The women are among those from the Twin Ports planning to make the trek by bus and plane to the U.S. Capitol to participate in the Women's March on Washington on Jan. 21, the first day of President-elect Donald Trump's tenure.

At Wednesday's meeting of the Feminist Action Collective, a new Twin Ports group that has formed in the wake of Trump's election, suggestions were made to have people exchange contact information so Twin Ports residents could march together.

Although some residents are traveling south to St. Paul to participate in the Women's March Minnesota, scheduled for Jan. 21 to coincide with the Women's March on Washington, Abby Mlinar said she was drawn to travel to Washington, D.C., where more than 200,000 people are expected to participate in the march.

Mlinar, the Duluth resident who started the Feminist Action Collective, said she's participating in the march to be among like-minded women. She's taking a bus departing Duluth for Washington, D.C., organized by the crowdsourcing company Rally Bus.

"The march as a whole, for me, is about making sure women's voices are heard, that the world understands that the women group is a strong and powerful group that should be listened to in that, yes, we can accept who our president is, but we don't want that president or the country to forget about our interests," Mlinar said.

Tickets are sold out for buses organized by Rally Bus to travel from Duluth to Washington, D.C. specifically for the Women's March on Washington. Tickets are still available for buses organized by Gender Justice in St. Paul that will depart Duluth for the march in Washington, D.C.

Eight women from Duluth and Superior will be attending the Women's March on Washington who wouldn't be able to afford the trip, thanks to fundraising by the Feminist Action Collective. On Wednesday, the group gathered to choose the eight women from the applicants who will receive tickets for the Rally Bus. After hearing the women's personal stories about wanting to stand up for women's rights, a woman commented that the applicants made her proud to be from Duluth.

Duluth resident Andrea Crouse said she's happy to help raise money so that Twin Ports women can participate in the march in Washington, D.C.

"There's such a variety and it's really inspiring to hear people articulate why they want to go and where they're coming from and what their stories are," Crouse said. "It's exciting to think about supporting people who are perhaps new to the process and thinking about them being brought into this kind of community and how that can affect the trajectory of their lives."

Crouse and her wife bought plane tickets the week after the presidential election to participate in the Women's March on Washington. She said she was disappointed about the message the United States is sending to the world about its priorities with the election of Trump.

"For me, I felt like I needed to add my voice and add to the numbers of people who were there and willing to say to this person, No. 1, he doesn't necessarily represent who we are and, two, say to him as well, we're here to hold him accountable. We're going to be watching; we're going to be working to protect our people, our places, the things we care about," she said.

Trump's election has rejuvenated Crouse's interest in standing up for her beliefs. As a young person, she was active in gay and lesbian rights and in the Loaves and Fishes community in Duluth.

"I came out as a young person, I was 13 when I came out, and so I definitely felt outside of the norm and the normalized culture and so while I felt that, I was really aware that I have a lot of privilege in my life and definitely fall into that category of feeling like with privilege comes responsibility," she said.

Mlinar said the presidential election was a turning point to take her support of women's issues to the next level and that's a statement echoed by the women who have joined the Feminist Action Collective, which meets every other Wednesday.

"There were so many of us on the first day; we went around and talked about why we were here, and many people were feeling guilt that they hadn't done more prior to this, but we all realize this is the kick in the pants that we all needed," Mlinar said.

She said she felt sad the morning after the election and was feeling like women had been let down in the election. The idea of getting together with other women and talking about actions they can take is how she got her out of it. That turned into the Feminist Action Collective, a group that now has hundreds of supporters on Facebook.

Crouse said she was happy that the Feminist Action Collective was created. There are other groups doing similar work in Duluth, but this is a new group that is starting fresh and could draw people who haven't already been engaged on women's issues, she said.

Crouse said she hopes the eight people sponsored by the group to travel to Washington, D.C., will feel a solidarity in a diverse group of women and men and be inspired when they return to the Twin Ports.

"There are going to be new experiences and people that they'll be meeting and that will bring something back to our community, that they'll not only be in D.C. and have a remarkable experience there, but that they'll come back and be able to be an even more engaged member of the Twin Ports community," she said.

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