Student Risks Arrest at Women’s March on Washington
Yvonne de los Santos
Ph.D student Ann “Lori” Hartness was at a Starbucks at nine in the morning using a Sharpie to tattoo the number to a lawyer on her forearm.
“In case I get arrested,” Hartness, 55, said. The grandmother of two promised her husband and father that she would do the opposite.
“I did not call my dad this morning. He’s so sure I’m going to die or get arrested.”
Her dad feared the worst since the night before, he told her that more than 200 protesters were arrested for vandalizing and setting fires in the nation’s capitol as an attempt to disrupt Donald Trump’s inauguration. Her husband, Stephen, 66, shared Hartness’ sense of preparation.
“My husband asked me if everyone had his number in case I needed bail money,” Hartness said.
Organizers from Unite Women who partnered with the Women’s March group posted a protest guide on their website in case of being placed under arrest. Along with the advice to use a Sharpie to write the number of the National Lawyer’s Guild on an arm or leg, protesters were also encouraged to bring Maalox in case of exposure to tear gas.
As Hartness marched down Independence Avenue, protesters gazed at her black and white shirt. All said, “I love your shirt.”
Printed with a black cat with claws out, it reads as a response to Trump’s 2005 recorded brag about grabbing women by their genitals: “Pussies Against Trump. You Can’t Grab This!”
Hartness said the reason she was marching was because of Trump’s threats to build a wall and to eliminate Obamacare, which hits close to home. Not leaving anything to chance, Hartness texted her son-in-law, Franklin Vazquez on Jan. 5 that she could help him pay $725, the cost to be a U.S. citizen.
“I have money for you before the inauguration to get squared away,” Hartness said in a text Vazquez.
Although both of his sisters were born in the U.S., Vazquez was not. He was born in Mexico when his parents, both U.S. citizens, returned to their native land for a small time to be with his grandparents before returning back to America. He just assumed growing up that he was already a citizen until he found out he wasn’t. Then there was the issue of choosing to feed the family with the money he earned or saving it for himself to become a citizen. Trump’s election as president motivated Hartness to get involved in her daughter, Krystal Lesniak’s, marriage because she feared Krystal stood a chance of raising the 28-year-old couple’s two children alone based on Trump’s threat to deport undocumented immigrants. Today, Vazquez is a citizen.
Hartness’ concern of Trump as president grew more after his threat to repeal Obamacare, which allows individuals health care despite pre-existing conditions. Hartness’ son, Thomas Elliott, 34, suffers from hydrocephalus, a condition rendering his brain to secrete cerebral fluid excessively since he was in utero. He also has Asperger’s syndrome. Considered “high functioning” in the autistic spectrum, Elliott is able to volunteer at his local non-profit thrift store. But recently, he’s told Hartness he wants to try to work.
“If he works, he will qualify for Obamacare since he is currently on Medicaid and receives SSI,” Hartness said.
As a disabled adult, Supplemental Security Insurance (SSI) allows Elliott benefits to meet his basic needs of clothing, food and shelter based on his lack of income. However, if he decides to work he will not qualify for SSI. If his attempts to become more independent backfires without a job and Trump repeals Obamacare without a similar replacement, Thomas can stand a chance of not having any insurance if the qualifications to be insured is denied based on his pre-existing conditions.
There are hundreds of thousands of other mothers like Hartness who advanced on Independence Avenue where it was reported by NBC news that the massive turn out forced a change of plans. The original route was from the National Mall to the White House, but organizers were forced to redirect from the National Monument to the White House to make room for the estimated 500,000 that came out, double than what was expected.
Marching with the Resisters, African-American Lashawn Baines, 42, a stay-at-home grandmother and mother of two, joined the national group to gain Trump’s attention to minority communities who have been victimized by the police that developed movements such as “Black Lives Matter.”
“I’m here to fight racism. We can’t go back. We need to continue going forward,” Baines said, who flew in from Fresno, California.
Her husband, Oliver, is currently the only sitting African-American serving District 3 on the city council, where he served with the Fresno Police Department for 12 years.
Standing at just 4-foot-9, Hartness continued marching with other groups. She was towered by taller protesters like sophomore Anthony Fiore, 20, a student at Virginia Commonwealth University who is majoring in costume design.
“I’m standing in solidarity with women and the country as a whole against Donald Trump. For myself I’m most concerned about LGBT rights which may be overturned. I’m aware of the massive threat to women’s health care that the Trump presidency proposes. I’m hoping that this [march] will show our leaders, especially the representatives that could really affect the most change, how the country is feeling,” Fiore said.
Even taller is 6-foot-1 Abraham Ruiz, 32, a native of Los Angeles, now living in D.C.
“I brought family from Atlanta to walk too. As a son of immigrant Mexicans, as a gay Latino, the fight continues for our rights; citizen rights, gay rights, women’s rights. We cannot afford to go back in time and take 10 steps back. All of us here realize that we all have power,” Ruiz said.
The Washington Post reported that over a million marchers in D.C. and sister cities from Los Angeles to Miami, and around the world including London, Paris and Melbourne protested against Trump’s rise to the highest office in America. President Trump’s inauguration turnout was tiny in size compared to the supporters at the Women’s March.
Hartness said at this point she isn’t reaching out to Trump anymore. She doesn’t think the worldwide support from the march will matter to him. Trump’s White House website removed the links to LGBT, Climate Change, Civil Rights and Disabilities the day of his inauguration. Although archiving these websites for a new vision was common practice with past administrations when the transition of power begins, it has not been replaced by Trump.
“Trump believes what Trump believes. This [march] wasn’t for Trump. There are other legislators. The House and Senate have people in it that are reasonable. I want for my government and all parts of government to know that Trump isn’t qualified for the job as president,” Hartness said.