What a difference a year can make. On Jan. 21, 2017, millions across the nation marched in unison to show support for what many feared would come under fire from a new Republican administration: human rights, civil liberties, diversity and even science as worry permeated left-leaning communities. Now, on Jan. 20, 2018, the communities that were brought together post-Trump inauguration return with several pointed and clear messages as the reality of the new political landscape has solidified.
The 2017 Justice for All March coincided with Women’s March on Washington and the Los Angeles iteration, where 200,000 were anticipated to attend (actual numbers were closer to 750,000) and in Ventura, several thousand were in attendance downtown. Protesters carried various signs with various slogans, but one question remained: What happens next?
Kathleen Shore, president and co-founder of Justice for All Ventura County, says that the organization knew that much had to be done to capture the energy of the demonstrators.
“After the march, we had a follow-up meeting with over 300 people, and at that time we created a structure for our organization to move forward,” said Shore. From the meeting came several task forces with various focuses, including an immigration task force that has since assisted Oxnard in becoming a “safe city” for immigrants; an LGBTQ task force, which has worked closely with the Diversity Collective; and a cultural and equity task force tasked with bridging the gap between the various cultures that live side by side in Ventura County.
This year, in the wake of the Thomas Fire and Montecito mudslides, the work of the environmental taskforce will be front and center at the march, which has been dubbed “Ventura County Rising.” Climate change, says Shore, is an important issue in need of address with an administration that has called it a “Chinese hoax.”
“The focus of this march initially, prior to the Thomas Fire, was going to be getting out the vote and the importance of being heard,” said Shore. “We expanded that when the fire happened, and after seeing the devastation in our community, to include the aspects of climate change that increase our risk of fire in Ventura County.”
The event will feature several speakers, including atmospheric scientist Peter Kalmus. Kalmus, speaking on his own behalf, is the author of Being the Change: Live Well and Spark a Climate Revolution.
Kalmus says that through climate change, he sees “a serious and urgent threat to our collective future.”
“Part of what makes climate such a hard problem is that the root cause, fossil fuels, is deeply intertwined in our everyday life,” says Kalmus, noting that they are in the vehicles, computers, plastics and other things we use on a daily basis as part of modern living, adding “but now we know that there’s a huge cost to that convenience.”
His address to the Justice for All attendees will be one promoting the idea of making change at the local, community level. In his personal life, Kalmus says that he has reduced his own emissions by 90 percent by not flying, becoming a vegetarian and commuting by bicycle.
“We need to talk about the reality of climate change with each other a lot more,” said Kalmus. “Those of us who do get the urgency and who do acknowledge that the science is correct, we can engage with our communities either in a public way or privately with our friends and colleagues.”
With the varied crowd attending the march, Kalmus has a message for all individuals regardless of the cause that brings them to downtown Ventura.
“If we don’t have an environment, a biosphere, we don’t have anything. Climate change is an existential threat to civilization as we know it.”
Prior to the fire, the focus of the Justice for All rally was on getting out the vote. That hasn’t changed, says Veronica James, co-founder of Indivisible Ventura, which will be registering new voters this Saturday at the rally. James will be a keynote speaker at the rally and says that the Thomas Fire and the get-out-the-vote effort are explicitly linked.
“When you look at the tax reform — I call it the tax scam — that just went through, you’ll see that victims of floods, tornadoes or hurricanes are still going to be able to get that tax relief; that has been historically what has happened,” said James. “But the tax plan has taken out relief for victims of wildfires and earthquakes. If we don’t vote, if we don’t get out and make sure we have our voices heard, we aren’t going to be able to change that.”
James has a personal stake in getting out the vote, as a former resident of the Hawaiian Village apartment complex that burned to the ground in the Thomas Fire.
“It seems to me that it’s a pretty big slap in the face to California; and with all of these climate change deniers in the current administration, if we don’t vote and get these people out of there the situation will keep getting worse.”
For Shore, the rally represents the culmination of a year’s worth of work and organization. She says that the community focus has been the strength of not only Justice for All VC, but all organizations involved.
“We are Ventura County, we are local, and a lot of local change starts on the ground level.”
The Justice for All VC will host “Ventura County Rising” on Saturday, Jan. 20, from 10 a.m.-noon at Plaza Park, 651 E. Thompson Blvd., Ventura. For more information, visit www.facebook.com/justiceforallventura/.