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‘One Billion Rising’ draws marchers to Golden Gate Bridge

Story and photos by Thomas K. Pendergast

GOLDEN GATE BRIDGE — Several hundred people joined anti-war group Code Pink on Valentine’s Day to dance and march across the Golden Gate Bridge in protest of violence against women and children.

More SFBay One Billion Rising coverage• GOP waters down Violence against Women Act

Organizers say they joined others across the Bay Area, United States and 200 countries around the world in the One Billion Rising demonstration because, according to a United Nations report, one in three women on Earth — about one billion — will be raped or assaulted in their lifetime.

To match that number, protest organizers set a goal of one billion women and men to ‘rise up and dance’ across the world.

Code Pink organizer Samantha Deer told SFBay:

“There are so many women around the world who experience violence every day of their lives. … Just all the people that I know in my life that have experienced violence, myself included, it’s really important to get out here and shine a light on what is happening and break the chains and have a voice to end violence.”

Last Tuesday, the U.S. Senate renewed the Violence Against Women Act, 78-22, with only male members of the GOP voting against it.  All female Sen voting for it from both parties; now goes to the House for a vote.

Deer emphasized the importance of passage of the Violence Against Women Act:

“It’s really important that we have some sort of legislation on this and it’s very telling that women are not against it and some men might be against it because they feel that it’s threatening or it’s not something they feel doesn’t need to happen when it really does. … One in four women in the United States is a victim of domestic violence and one-in-six women is a survivor of attempted or completed sexual violence in her lifetime. … The statistics say it all.”

Lori Groneck is 99 years old and was pushed across the bridge in a wheelchair. Now from Cloverdale, California, she is an Italian immigrant who, as a little girl, recalls going to demonstrations with her mother in Italy. As a young woman, she opposed Mussolini and the Fascists.

Groneck recalls a night during WWII when a soldier came to the gate surrounding the house where she lived with her mother, but she heard him in time to grab a weapon:

“We had a big house and a long way to walk to the gate. … You know what I did? I got a big sword and I waited by the gate. And when the man came I hit him on the head to stop him, because my mother was having lots of trouble because of the war. We were scared so I hit the guy.”

She said he threatened to “send someone” to kill her but she replied:

“ok, if somebody comes to try to kill me I’ll go to the commander tomorrow and I’ll fix you! He went away and don’t kill me. … I was not tough. I was a nice, young strong woman … swimming all the time.”

San Franciscan Jackie Barshak probably won’t be swimming anytime soon; she walked over the bridge on crutches. About three years ago she was in India riding a motorcycle when a man cut in front of her with his car, permanently disabling her.

Barshak doesn’t think it was an accident:

“I believe that I was deliberately hit on my motorcycle by a car, by a conservative member of the village in which I was riding my motorcycle. … Indian women don’t ride motorcycles and it’s rare or unheard of for even a western woman to ride a motorcycle. He deliberately cut me off and caused me to be permanently disabled.”

In spite of having to make the trip on crutches, Barshak came out to join the others at the iconic bridge:

“This is a healthy outlet for me to express my outrage of violence that is even more insidious than that that has been perpetrated on me. … This is one way that women can lend a unified voice that we will not take violence as a given in our culture, in any culture.”

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