Concord woman makes her march on Washington

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    Concord yoga teacher Ray Conner looks towards the new Trump International Hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C. Saturday. She and other people in the Women's March on Washington chanted "shame!" as they passed the business. Elodie Reed—Monitor staff

  • Concord yoga teacher Ray Conner walks past some counter-protesters at the Women's March on Washington. Elodie Reed—Monitor staff

  • Conner and Kirksey hold hands while marching Saturday. Elodie Reed—Monitor staff

  • Ray Conner smiles as she marches in Washington, D.C. Saturday. She frequently pointed out posters she was amused by or liked for the idea. Elodie Reed—Monitor staff

  • Ray Conner of Concord walks in the Women's March on Washington Saturday. Elodie Reed—Monitor staff

  • Concord yoga teacher Ray Conner and her partner, Eban Kirksey, walk down the National Mall in Washington, D.C. during the Women's March on Washington Saturday. Elodie Reed—Monitor staff

  • Ray Conner of Concord and her partner, Eben Kirksey, talk in the woods near the National Museum of the American Indian Saturday. Elodie Reed—Monitor staff

  • Ray Conner waits for the beginning of the Women's March on Washington Saturday. Elodie Reed—Monitor staff

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    On the back of her poster, Ray Conner writes in Sharpie marker a mantra which means: "May all beings everywhere be happy and free." Elodie Reed—Monitor staff

  • Ray Conner and her partner, Eben Kirksey, behind her, chat with a 70-year-old woman who began her graduate program in women studies the day before the Women's March on Washington. The couple chatted up a number of people while participating in Saturday's demonstration. Elodie Reed—Monitor staff

Monitor staff
Published: 1/22/2017 12:20:47 AM

Ray Conner found the Women’s March on Washington long before she reached the official meeting spot along Independence Avenue.

Conner, a 35-year-old Concord yoga teacher and business owner, met some of the thousands of men and women in pink “pussyhats” and carrying posters in the Washington, D.C. Metro Saturday morning.

She and her partner, Eben Kirksey, plus Kirksey’s parents and a friend, decided to get off the train early and walk the rest of the way, wading through a growing sea of people.

“It was like, the march was there, the march was here,” Conner said. “I’m feeling overwhelmed with pride – this is what it means to be American.”

Conner traveled down to the area Tuesday. Before she went, she said she wanted to be part of an event that provided camraderie and inspiration for herself and others dispirited by Donald Trump’s win in the general election.

“I think a lot of people feel stymied for how to act – they don’t know how to access their congressional representatives,” Conner said on Saturday. “It’s hard to organize in New Hampshire sometimes.”

Conner said she plans to help Granite Staters better gain that access and also use it herself. She brought thank-you notes to nine legislative offices in Washington D.C. on Thursday, and she had hoped to visit more Saturday.

A policeman told Conner’s partner, Eben, however, that due to the larger-than-expected numbers of people at the march, law enforcement decided to restrict access to congressional offices last minute.

So Conner settled for inspiration on Saturday. She joined in “This is what Democracy looks like!” chants, pointed out other people’s posters she loved, and even was moved by one demonstration – service dogs with a sign reading, “Service dogs against Trump” – to add to her own poster.

Conner wrote in Sharpie Marker the mantra, “lokah samastah sukhino bhavantu.”

“May all beings everywhere be happy and free,” Conner said. “That animals and the ecosystem are so underrepresented by this administration – the oppression is multi-species.”

Some messages – those of gender equality, the importance of science, “Make America Kind Again” – resonated with Conner. The few women carrying anti-abortion signs did not.

Chanting “My body, my choice,” throughout the march, Conner said she knows no movement can encompass the views of women.

“We will have disagreements,” she said. “I respect that’s what they feel and believe deeply. I will just not stand for that.”

Interactions with counter-protesters were generally few and far between as Conner marched through Washington, D.C. – far more common was people sharing compliments, anti-bacterial soap at the port-a-potties, and a general joy in the day.

One of the more tense moments happened along Pennsylvania Avenue, where the new Trump International Hotel is located. Marchers booed, yelled profanity and chanted “Shame!”

Conner joined in just on the last chant. She said at these types of events, she doesn’t like anything that echoes the “bullying mentality” that she said Trump embodies.

But the idea of people raising their voices Saturday – whether booing or chanting – made Conner happy. Dialogue, she said, seemed to be the only possible way to get closer to country unity.

“If we segregate ourselves by not coming out of the closet, we create these fissures,” Conner said. “I think why we didn’t expect Trump to win – we really didn’t talk to each other.”

She added, “We’re not practiced in non-violent dialogue.”

Saturday’s march was Conner’s – plus hundreds of thousands of others’ – start toward getting more practice. With her sign reading, “Our Bodies, Our Minds, Our Power,” Conner joined the chanting, thundering, colorful crowd, walking peacefully, but with purpose, toward the White House.




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