ACTIVISM

Jane Fonda and the Women of Sundance Take on President Trump: ‘Resist! Persist! Insist! Elect!’

The Respect Rally, comprised of hundreds of women—and some men—at the Sundance Film Festival, saw several actresses and actors speak out against sexism and the 45th president.

Michael Loccisano/Getty

PARK CITY, Utah — It’s the one-year anniversary of Donald Trump’s inauguration, and the government is shut down. Our voices, however, aren’t.

Despite more than a foot of snow on the ground in Park City, and more falling by the minute, the voices are as loud and impassioned as ever, from the hundreds who gathered for the Sundance Film Festival’s Respect Rally, huddled in their parkas and hoisting their Grab ‘Em By the Ballot signs, to celebrities including Jane Fonda, Lena Waithe, and Tessa Thompson rallying them from a makeshift stage.

A year ago, in solidarity with the Women’s March on Washington and the hundreds of satellite protests around the country, Chelsea Handler organized the Hollywood players and attendees at the Sundance Film Festival into their own march down Park City’s Main Street, highlighted by speeches from Jessica Williams, Maria Bello, and more. (Yes, Harvey Weinstein was there, too.) The weather was, if possible, even more evocative of a winter apocalypse last year, yet attendance outperformed the wildest expectations.

This year’s rally seemed united by two themes: the importance of this moment for women, and, well, “Fuck Donald Trump.”

Actress Tessa Thompson opened the rally, speaking to a crowd who stifled their shivers in order to cheer (some attendees even snowshoed in). She spoke about the indignities facing citizens today, and encouraged unflinching action. “Until we see legislation and policies and a president who respects our humanity, that treats us—all of us—with dignity, we must continue to gather and tell each other’s stories,” she said, to whooping cheers. “Stories about the world we know we deserve to live in.’

The loudest response was to her closing statement: “We’ve also come here again to say, Mr. Trump, and all those like him, your time in power might not yet be up, but our time to stay silent is.”

Jane Fonda, who was at Sundance to promote a documentary about her life and career as an actress and activist, gave a well-researched speech clarifying that people must not rely on the Democratic Party to reform things for them, but instead be motivated to engage in policy decisions about wages and equality. “When we are equal, we are not abused,” she said. “This kind of change doesn’t just come about through protest. It comes through organizing.”

Gloria Allred, also at Sundance as the subject of a documentary about her life, led the crowd in a chant: “Resist! Persist! Insist! Elect!”

Like many of the other speakers, she talked about the momentum behind the #MeToo movement and the Time’s Up initiative as a galvanizing opportunity for the country, and especially women.

“This marks the end of fear being used as a weapon to silence women,” she said.

Referencing the litany of powerful men who have been called out for their past actions as more and more women come forward sharing their stories of abuse and harassment, she said that this is a year that “we said to rich, powerful, famous men, ‘You can break out hearts, but you cannot break our silence!’”

Allred may have had the line of the entire frigid proceedings, too: “We demand the right to get contraceptives while men are getting Viagra!”

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Other speakers at the rally included Jordanian princess and humanitarian Princess Firyal, GLAAD President Sarah Kate Ellis, Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski, Utah Senate Candidate Jenny Wilson, and actor Nick Offerman.

Stars weren’t just at the podium, either. Spotted in the crowd cheering along with the rest of the ralliers were Chloe Grace Moretz, Mia Wasikowska and Kathryn Hahn, among others.

Common may have been the most Instagrammed- and- tweeted-about speaker, devoting much of his time at the microphone to two verses of an original rap he wrote about a world he dreamed of in which women had all the power.

But, for our money, it was Master of None writer/star and The Chi creator Lena Waithe who gave the most stirring and provocative speech.

She talked about the resonance of the rally so soon after Martin Luther King Day, saying, “We have a lot more in common than we think,” and, like Fonda and Thompson before her, underlined the necessity and role of a free press: “Journalists are supposed to give us the facts, but they’re also supposed to hold a mirror up to society. All our flaws. All our beauty.”

Referring to how often she’s praised for her success being a black, queer woman, she said, “Let me tell you, being born gay and black and female is not a revolutionary act. But being unapologetically black, being extremely out, and being a proud feminist, that is revolutionary.”

She also ended her speech not with rage, but with positivity, championing how society has come a long way. “We’re a lot further than a lot of people want to give us credit for, but we still gotta keep working. We still gotta keep marching...But we have to come together. We can’t do this alone. It wasn’t just black people on that bridge in Selma. It was everyone standing together.”