Chanting “I believe her” and “no more silence,” more than 120 people rallied inside the Minnesota Capitol on Friday against sexual harassment and in support of the growing number of women speaking out about their own experiences.
The afternoon rally included speeches by several women who serve at the Capitol who said they are frustrated by harassment and discrimination they and colleagues regularly encounter. Some called for more substantial investigations into harassment allegations, more serious consequences for harassers — and more women in the leadership ranks of Minnesota government.
Rep. Rena Moran, DFL-St. Paul, thanked the female legislators and lobbyists who have recently come forward with stories of harassment and misconduct by two members of the Legislature: Sen. Dan Schoen, DFL-St. Paul Park, and Rep. Tony Cornish, R-Vernon Center.
“A lot of Minnesotans might have a hard time believing that we are here, in 2017, rallying against sexual harassment,” Moran said. “But for a lot of women at the Capitol, it’s not hard to believe at all.”
Rep. Tina Liebling, DFL-Rochester, was one of several DFL candidates for governor at the rally. She said sexual harassment affects a wide swath of people, and she asked the women in the crowd to raise their hands if they’d never been harassed.
No hands went up.
“This is a way of saying to women: ‘You don’t have as much power as me,’ ” Liebling said of harassers’ behavior.
One group of women from Washington County, part of which Schoen represents in the Senate, collected Post-it notes with messages from rally attendees to post on the senator’s office door.
Several of the notes called for Schoen’s resignation.
Both he and Cornish have denied the allegations against them or said they were misinterpreted.
Some at the rally called for at least one direct action by the Legislature when it reconvenes in February: passing a state Equal Rights Amendment that would prohibit discrimination based on gender and potentially make it easier to clamp down on sexual harassment and abuse.
Betty Folliard, a former state lawmaker and women’s rights advocate, helped organize the rally. She said high-profile allegations, such as those about Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein and Minnesota U.S. Sen. Al Franken, have “opened Pandora’s box.”
“We can no longer let the perpetrators go on — we have to be heard,” Folliard said.