“I’ve been to a bunch of gay pride marches, like New York and San Francisco, so this is a bit different,” a demonstrator who gave their name as Kai said. “There it’s more like a pride thing. This is more like, you’re fighting for it — basic rights.”
Kai and sibling Casey stood with their mother Kathy (last names not provided) in the intersection of 8th and Mill holding rainbow flags, waiting for the march to begin. They were among a crowd of thousands, which gathered for the Women’s March on Eugene — a “sister march” of the March on Washington D.C., which also took place on Saturday, Jan. 21.
The idea for the Women’s March was conceived in Nov. 2016, in response to the nomination of now-President Donald J. Trump.
Originally, the Women’s March on Washington was planned for D.C. only, but quickly grew, with 673 marches planned across the U.S. and the world, spanning all seven continents, as well as a virtual march for those who were unable to attend in person.
Turnout in Eugene was strong despite chilly rain showers and gusts of wind throughout the afternoon. Sources report between 7,000 – 10,000 people attended Eugene’s march. Portland reportedly had 75,000 – 100,000 people in attendance. Women’s March estimated over 5 million demonstrators worldwide, according to their webpage. The combined numbers in D.C. and across the U.S. are said to make this one of the largest marches in U.S. history.
Eugene’s march, which began at the Federal Courthouse downtown and ended at the W.O.W. Hall, was peaceful with no major incidents, and no counter-protests, according to Eugene Police Department.
Though there were protests on the day of the inauguration, which took place on Friday, the Women’s March was a carefully crafted event, aimed at sending a message to the newly elected President and government on their first day in office, according to a statement on the Women’s March webpage. Their mission was to give all women a voice, regardless of their identity or background.
People of varied backgrounds were in attendance and ready for their voices to be heard. Chants could be heard throughout the afternoon, including “Women united will never be defeated,” “This is what democracy looks like,” and “Hey hey, ho ho, Donald Trump has got to go.”
Asaki Oyama, who attended the march with her daughter, Karen, and two friends, felt that the march was a necessary response to the newly elected President.
“I can’t believe what’s happening in the U.S. We’re originally from Japan, but the new administration is going to affect not only the U.S., but, all over the world — all countries, including Japan,” Oyama said. “I think each person, regardless of ethnicity, culture, gender, class differences — we should have a voice. Each person’s voice should be heard. Even this little kid from Japan, her voice should be heard.”
Others in attendance cited historical events as their motivation for attending the march.
“I’m here today because my mom was in World War II, and my grandparents fought for the resistance and the Allied Forces, and there were concentration camps then, so I really feel that this is a similar situation,” march attendee Sariantra Kali said. “Hitler rose to power because he was elected and then progressively took rights away and we believe this is the same thing happening again, and so I feel like I need to do everything I can to interrupt that process. I’ve been writing senators, representatives, calling, sending money to causes that I believe in because I want to support people doing the work that I think is really important.”
There were several speakers preceding the march, all of whom are leaders in the community. Congressman Peter DeFazio (D-Ore. – 4th District) was one of the last to speak to the massive crowd, which spilled out into the street and adjacent intersections, before the march began. He noted that the last time a march occurred in conjunction with an inauguration was in 1913 for women’s right to vote.
DeFazio’s conclusion riled up an already-excited crowd as he proclaimed that rights to freedom of religion, public education, healthcare, environmental protection, safety for immigrants, gay marriage and free choices will not be taken from the people. The crowd roared in response, his words punctuated by Spanish language and American Sign Language interpreters.
“I’m honored to be invited — the only male invited to speak. I’m honored to represent these wonderful people who are marching for progress and not marching backwards,” Congressman DeFazio said.