- Associated Press - Friday, May 5, 2017

CHARLESTON, Ill. (AP) - Ellen Wolcott and others in the area saw January’s Women’s March on Washington, a large gathering to support women’s rights and also to express opposition to the current president, as an inspiration to stand up against inequalities and Donald Trump in a more public fashion.

No stranger to public action herself, having protested the Iraq war in the past, Wolcott was intrigued by the Women’s March and the subsequent actions the organization planned to take within Trump’s first 100 days in office.

One of those actions called for organization to take place in communities across the country. Wolcott said at first, the groups were largely based in bigger areas such as Chicago.

For Wolcott, Charleston was then next to be on that list.

Despite the vast size differences, Wolcott said she knew, or at least she hoped, there were plenty of people in Charleston who felt the same way she and those who attended the march did about equality, Trump and his plans.

After some planning among Wolcott and those she knew, the Charleston Women’s Huddle Actions met for the first time in February to map out their plans for the future.

Wolcott said the group had one major goal: to carry out those 10 actions from the Women’s March and more within Trump’s first 100 days.

“Our mission is to fight for equality,” Wolcott said. “We are also fighting to preserve our democracy. We have heard a lot of hate speech so far and fear-mongering from those in power, and that is a cowardly attempt to control us.”

Wolcott, a vehement opponent of Trump, said it is important now for small entities like the Charleston Huddle group to show their opposition to controversial actions and opinions that Trump has made like travel bans and the Mexican border wall. She said it is important to keep the momentum of the march going.

“We don’t want the momentum to die,” she said. “We have a lot of issues facing us now… There is a division in the country.”

The group’s most public action fell in line with International Women’s Day in March. The Huddle group and others in the community demonstrated against Trump’s actions along the Lincoln Avenue sidewalk.

Also, the group has continued to mail in letters to the newspaper to get the word out about their causes and members have continued to write to state and national representatives about their concerns.

Whether or not the demonstrations and the continued conversations lead to anything fruitful in the immediate future, Wolcott said, the work they do is still crucial to them.

“You can either be quiet and do nothing and watch it happen, or you can speak out and make a difference,” Wolcott said. “Sometimes you feel like you are not going to make a difference but you give encouragement to other people when they see they are not alone in feeling that something should be done. It can snowball.”

For the Charleston Huddle group’s next venture was an invitation to U.S. Rep. John Shimkus, R-Collinsville, and Democratic challenger Carl Spoerer to attend a town hall meeting on April 19.

Wolcott said the purpose of the town hall was for the representative and his challenger to “hear our voices.”

She noted that the group has attempted to organize a town hall with Shimkus, but unsuccessfully. Shimkus does not do town hall meetings and prefers to meet with people in small groups, she said.

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Source: https://bit.ly/2op8yCw

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Information from: Mattoon Journal-Gazette, https://www.jg-tc.com

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