On the heels of Donald Trump’s inauguration, hundreds of thousands of people gathered on the National Mall Saturday for the Women’s March on Washington. The event was organized as a grassroots movement to stand against Trump and for women’s rights and a variety of other causes.
In solidarity, “sister marches” were held in cities across the country, including Pensacola.
Picking up on Hillary Clinton’s campaign mantras, chants of “More love, less hate” and “Love trumps hate” filled the air as the marchers proceeded through downtown Pensacola.
Although rainy weather Saturday morning delayed the official start of the march, it did not dampen turnout or enthusiasm.
“There was electricity in the air, literally,” said Tara Taylor. “It was great to see how many people would still come out in the face of the weather. It was really amazing.”
Taylor and her friend Siobhan Gallagher were among an estimated 2,000 women and others who took part in the march, which began at Plaza de Luna and would its way through downtown for about a mile.
“I wanted to march today because I want to stand with those who feel disrespected and threatened by the rhetoric that’s been thrown around,” Taylor said.
“There’s power in numbers,” said Gallagher. “And we should unify our platform to make sure all the voices are heard, standing up for maybe all the people who maybe can’t speak for themselves.”
Empowering, inspiring, and hopeful are words they used to describe the experience.
Similar expressions came from a group of 20-year old friends, who were participating in their first political demonstration.
After missing out on an anti-Trump rally last November in New Orleans, Shelby Spiegelhalter, Erin Fairall and Alyssa Dunaway jumped at the opportunity to join in when Brianna Hoomes floated the idea. They were particularly glad for to take part in an event in their own community.
“I’m just so proud that something like this, that’s so important, is happening in our hometown,” said Fairall, who was overcome with emotion and began to tear up as she spoke about the occasion.
“I think a lot of it was that as white women we’re very privileged,” added Hoomes. “And we wanted to come stand for our women of color and trans women and let them know that they’re not by themselves and that we’ll stand with them through whatever our new president has decided to throw at them.”
Also participating in the March was Dannon Byrd, who described herself as just an average, white, middle-class female and said she wanted to join in “just as a citizen.”
Byrd said, for her, it was about taking a stand for people who don’t look like her, don’t love like she does, and who have a different religion than she does, but are also people and deserve equal rights.
“Really for me this was inspiring and I think for a lot of people this was maybe first chance here in northwest Florida to kind of stand out and stand up for what they believe in,” said Byrd, noting the conservative nature of the community in which we live. “I feel like our area is so overcome with super, super conservative views, that people are afraid and feel oppressed to really stand up for what they believe here. So, I think it was about freedom for a lot of people.”
The march provided an opportunity to stand up for the rights of women, people of color, immigrants, LGBTQ people, and other vulnerable populations. Also, there were signs citing reproductive rights and environmental concerns, mixed in with a few anti-Trump slogans.
Felicia Floyd, who helped set up a lactation tent in conjunction with the March of Dimes, expressed concern about disparities in maternal child health. Floyd referred to the event as “powerful” and called on individuals to be aware of their “unconscious biases.” She explains these are thoughts you may not realize exist that you benefit from and the privileges you have.
“If something makes you feel uncomfortable, for instance, talking about the subject of undocumented immigrants or if you’re uncomfortable talking about the subject of ‘black lives matter’ then ask yourself why, why does that make me uncomfortable” Floyd proclaimed. Digging a little deeper, those thoughts can very unconscious sometimes, not with intent. So, instead of taking offense or being upset by such things, when you pursue why you’re upset, it usually comes down to that unconscious bias. According to Floyd, “When we dig deeper and remember those, then we can feel it and then make better choices toward racial equity.”
The idea for the Women’s March in Pensacola began with Janet Sallis, who created an event on Facebook a couple of weeks ago, after realizing that she couldn’t attend the march in Washington, D.C. By Saturday morning she had received over 2700 responses.
“It’s an incredible feeling to have your feet on the ground in a city you love and know that what you do can make a difference, one way or another,” said Sallis, who was encouraged to see so many like-minded people unify over issues important to women. And, she wants those who may not be in the majority know that there is support for them.
“We live in a very conservative part of the country and that’s okay,” Sallis said. “But some people have different viewpoints and we need to see each and know we’re there. So, I think knowing that they’re not alone and, number two, to wake up to the very real threat that some of our civil liberties are under.”
Recognizing the success of the Women’s March here and elsewhere, Sallis says there are no plans to stop now, “I hope I see you next year.”