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Local residents organize bus trip for Women’s March on Washington

12/12/2016 6:00 AM |

womens march on washington north fork southold

More than 100 local men and women will board buses and head to our nation’s capital Jan. 21 for the Women’s March on Washington.

“This bus trip is about making sure that voices are heard,” said Damon Rallis, a Southold Town Democratic Committee member and co-president of the Southold Democratic Club. The town committee is sponsoring the two buses, which filled up quickly.

Mr. Rallis, who will not take part in the trip, said he was initially contacted about the idea by fellow club member and East Marion resident Sue Stamatis. Ms. Stamatis said she wanted to channel her feelings following the election into something positive and, after a few phone calls, realized she wasn’t the only person who felt that way.

Mr. Rallis helped her make arrangements with Hampton Jitney for the first bus, which sold out in five hours — before the club even had a chance to advertise the trip.

“The depth of enthusiasm from people out here blew me away,” Ms. Stamatis said. The group was able to arrange for a second bus, which sold out in about 48 hours.

“I’m very excited,” she said. “I think we’re building a network out here and making something positive out of a potentially bad situation.”

Although Ms. Stamatis and many others are upset about comments Mr. Trump made during the election about women and immigrants, she and Mr. Rallis both said the reason for traveling to Washington, D.C., is not to protest the results of the election.

“We are serving notice that we are going to be watching what he does and not going to give up rights we fought hard for,” Ms. Stamatis said.

“It’s democracy in action,” added Mr. Rallis.

Another committee member who is passionate about the trip is Democratic club co-president Debbie O’Kane, who is also program director for North Fork Environmental Council and president of the North Fork Audubon Society.

For Ms. O’Kane, the trip meshes with her desire to educate people about possible negative effects on the environment resulting from a new president. Mr. Trump has suggested that he might look to dismantle environmental policies put into effect during the Obama administration.

“I feel like I need my voice heard on this and also need to make sure that other people are fully aware of what the consequences are,” Ms. O’Kane said. She said she thinks it’s important for people to come together to voice their opinions in order to prevent “bad decisions” from being made.

“This is the start of an awakening of people to really make sure that they understand what consequences can come about if people don’t fully understand and pay attention to decisions that can affect us and future generations,” she said.

In addition to the two buses leaving from Southold, several more have been booked on the South Fork.

The Women’s March on Washington’s national Facebook page estimates that 127,000 people will gather at the Lincoln Memorial for the event. According to the page, organizers want the march to be a first step toward unifying communities across the nation and creating “change from the grassroots level up.”

“In the spirit of democracy and honoring the champions of human rights, dignity and justice who have come before us,” the page reads, “we join in diversity to show our presence in numbers too great to ignore.”

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Photo: (From left) Joanna and Damon Rallis, Sue Stamatis and Debbie O’Kane are organizing the trip. (Credit: Krysten Massa)

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