The warnings in Washington of forced across-the-board budget cuts are trickling down to Northern Michigan. One program facing cuts is Michigan's "STOP Violence Against Women" program, and that has women and community members speaking out.
The global movement known as "One Billion Rising" had women dancing in flash mobs around the world and in our community just two weeks ago demanding attention to stop violence against women. But that message has never been clearer, as the sequester looms, to command our congressmen to step up and join the fight.
A flash mob invaded downtown with each step speaking out, making violence against women impossible to ignore.
"It's fun and it gets people involved, and it's very interesting," said Amber Carr, flash mob participant. "It's empowering to be a part of something like this."
This dance-off is an encore to the "One Billion Rising" demonstration at Grand Traverse Mall on Valentine's Day.
"What I think One Billion Rising did do brilliantly is start the conversation... bring people together with something like dance that's non-threatening," said Betsy Coffia, flash mob organizer.
Tuesday's mob was a call to Congressman Dan Benishek to join his female republican senators who passed a version of the Violence Against Women Act earlier this month. Now, participants say it's time for the House to bring it home.
"There's no reason why congress should be dragging their feet on this," said Coffia.
And not only that, this dance was a call to Washington, as the mandatory budget cut clock ticks with the "STOP Violence Against Women" program's funds hanging in the balance. In Michigan, approximately $209,000 worth, resulting in 800 victims of domestic violence being turned away.
"This is our right to dream of a world for our children that is better than the world that we've lived in," said Emily Magner, participant and organizer of the flash mob in Grand Traverse Mall.
It may be seen as a last-ditch solution to get their voices heard, but even though the music has stopped, the message remains loud and clear.
"As long as we stand together... as long as we use our voices... as long as we advocate for people's voices who aren't heard, we're doing the right thing," said Magner.
7&4 news contacted Congressman Benishek, and he has a response to the demonstrators in Traverse City:
"As always, I welcome input from citizens in Northern Michigan. Frankly, it's good to see people playing an active role their government. Later this week, the House will be voting on important legislation designed to help protect those who are victims of terrible crimes. As a father, grandfather and doctor, I supported this legislation last year and look forward to supporting again this week."