Murray, Paducah actions connect western Kentucky activists

Close to 100 people showed up on February 7 for a “Paducah Stands for Kentucky” rally.

Paducah, population 25,000, is the seat of McCracken County in the deeply conservative, eight-county Jackson Purchase region, which is as far west as Kentucky goes. A huge and controversial Confederate battle flag flies just east of town along Interstate 24.

While Donald Trump piled up 62.5 percent of Kentucky’s vote, the Republican collected more than 66 percent of McCracken County ballots and 72.5 percent Purchase-wide.

By showing up, rally goers hoped they at least offered more proof that there’s another side to this rural, tobacco-farming section of “Trump’s America.”

On January 21, a “March for Equality and Social Justice” in Murray, also in the Purchase, attracted 800 people. The procession was a sister to the “Women’s March on Washington.”

Some in the Paducah crowd marched in Murray. 

“It’s important to get involved in small towns and promote acceptance and progress,” said Alivia Boulton.

Andy Wiggins agreed. “It is important to show Paducah there are individuals and groups here that are opposed to the actions that are happening in our state and federal governments.”

The rally began at dusk in the city’s Dolly McNutt Plaza, named for Paducah’s first woman mayor. 

Several people carried homemade signs which proclaimed multiple messages: “Love Trumps Hate,” “Injustice Anywhere is a Threat to Justice Everywhere,” “Equal Rights for All,” “My Mother Was a Refugee,” “Health Care for All” and more. 

“We are here because we all stand for humanity,” said Jennifer DuBerry.

The crowd listened to impromptu speeches and testimonials from DuBerry and others. About an hour into the rally, a fast-moving thunderstorm scattered the gathering.

Speakers included Jennifer Smith, two-time cancer survivor. Smith is worried that Trump and the Republicans will abolish ACA or replace it with an inadequate plan.

“What if they impose lifetime limits?” Smith asked. “My life depends on access to medical care.”

Smith, one of a handful of women present who marched in Washington, said she also came to protest Trump’s policies on immigration and his Muslim
ban. “The majority of my oncology team at Vanderbilt [University Hospital] are immigrants. My life depends on immigrants, too.”

Eliza Purcell said she got up the rally after hearing that Kentuckians For The Commonwealth was holding a “Stand for Kentucky Day of Action” in Frankfort when the legislature reconvened on February 7.

Several in the crowd attended a recent KFTC meeting at the library. The meeting was held to gauge interest in starting a chapter in westernmost Kentucky. About 80 people came.

“I felt like I had to do something to stand up,” Purcell said of the rally. “I just winged it on Facebook. I didn’t think there’d be this many people.”

The crowd ranged in age from grade school kids to seniors like Curtis Grace.

“I’m here to stand up for what I believe is right,” he said. “I’m gay, but honestly all our rights
are being trampled on, including children’s rights.”

Ricardo Harding came to support minority and LGBT rights and to protest the Confederate flag in Paducah’s November Veterans’ Day parades. “That’s offensive to our African American veterans.”

He brought his son, Thomas, age 8, “to see how democracy works.”