Shannon Vandenbush, one of the organizers of the North Beach Women’s March, addresses the crowd after the event. (North Coast News Photo)

Shannon Vandenbush, one of the organizers of the North Beach Women’s March, addresses the crowd after the event. (North Coast News Photo)

Sparked by local march, new activist group forms

  • Fri Feb 17th, 2017 10:00pm
  • News

BY SCOTT D. JOHNSTON

For the GH Newspaper Group

What started as personal acts of social conscience on the parts of two Ocean Shores women has spawned “Coastal Unity,” a new community-based activist group that will meet Monday (President’s Day) at 6 p.m. at the Ocean Shores Elementary School, 300 Mt. Olympus Ave.

The group, which organizers say is “committed to advancing social and cultural change for women’s rights/human rights through peaceful action,” grew out of the women’s march that took place on Pt. Brown Ave. on Saturday, Jan. 21. That event was among hundreds of marches and protests involving millions across the country and around the world the day following Donald Trump’s Presidential inauguration.

Local activist Shannon Vandenbush explained that, “I felt like I had to do something, and Ruth Biggs asked me if I would march with her because she was in that same place,” although neither had yet seen how deeply their feelings were resonating through the community.

Biggs said she believes the march was a “statement for women demanding their rights and not necessarily a statement against Trump.” She said they initially expected “we were going to have maybe a dozen, then it was 60 or so, and 153 on the actual day.”

Contact information was exchanged and over 100 attended a preliminary meeting a week later at the Shilo Inn, where functions and forms for a possible group were discussed. To further the effort, they created a six-member steering committee that Vandenbush described as “people who (have) taken leadership roles in our community and who know grass roots organizing… I looked for the smartest ladies to go about doing this; people who are skilled at making change happen.”

The broad concept, according to Vandenbush’s email announcing the Feb. 20 meeting, is simply, “We meet together because we are people committed to advancing social and cultural change for Women’s Rights/Human Rights through peaceful action.”

Biggs and Vandenbush both stressed that Coastal Unity is open to all, and noted that, so far, up to a third of those involved have been men. Biggs explained that she believes what some call women’s rights are simply human rights. Vandenbush elaborated, “… whoever you are, however you are, if you see the critical need for the advance of women’s rights as human rights, then this is your meeting.”

Current plans call for monthly meetings of the entire group, and “smaller groups who can meet at their own convenience through the month.” At the Monday, Feb. 20 meeting, Biggs and Vandenbush plan to outline six likely subgroups and functions:

Legislative Watch will report on state and national legislative issues and form most of the calls to action for the large group.

Core Group, Vandenbush explained, is the group “most newcomers will want to start off in, and activists may want to visit this group after an action. Some will arrive in this group charged and ready to go, and some will arrive in need of perspective, support and a bit of recharging.”

Activists “are committed to peaceful resistance and … are ready to be present for the actions that are advanced by our group, and by groups throughout Grays Harbor.” Unity Principles will “research and study developing issues… watch media, site sources, and check our facts… to help to keep our group grounded in the issues that face us, as they relate to women’s rights as human rights.”

Influencers will engage in “community outreach, person to person, writers, bloggers, Letters to the Editor, stump speeches to non-profits and community groups, phone calls, possibly host coffees, teas, and potlucks, or fundraisers.”