Lane County women and their supporters gathered at the Wayne Morse United States Courthouse in downtown Eugene on Saturday, Jan. 20 for a second annual protest march, called the Women’s March for Action.
Indivisible Eugene, the group organizing the march, planned the pre-march rally, the march route and the post-march entertainment with the theme, “Power to the Polls.” The rally featured local leaders including NAACP Program Coordinator Brittany Judson, Field Director for Planned Parenthood Advocates of Oregon Nichi Masters Linder, Oregon State Representative Julie Fahey, and Oregon Congressman Peter Defazio.
Rough estimates from the Women’s March for Action Facebook page say between 5000 and 7000 people marched.
March organizer Lin Woodrich explained the positive shift in focus from last year’s march.
“This year, a sense of national dread is being replaced with a national sense of optimism that the pendulum is swinging back toward democracy, civility, fairness and decency,” Woodrich said.
Speakers at the rally reflected on successes of people working together to bring political change. Linder talked about being overwhelmed after the Nov. 2016 election, then being encouraged by the support from her community.
“Since day one, this administration has been attacking women’s health and rights, and now they’re putting decades of progress for women in their crosshairs,” Woodrich said, “Fortunately, Planned Parenthood Advocates of Oregon and our supporters are resisting and persisting. We helped to defeat Trumpcare, which is the worst bill for women in a generation! We helped to pass Oregon’s Reproductive Health Equity Act, the nation’s most progressive reproductive healthcare policy!”
Along with the “Power to the Polls” theme, the organizers hoped to encourage voting and participation in government and community. “We vote, we win!” was one of the chants at the march.
Rep. Defazio noted how people showed up to stop the Muslim ban and confronted sexual harassment with the #MeToo movement, and he encouraged people to continue working.
“In the year ahead, with women continuing to lead the way, we will protect a woman’s right to choose; fund Children’s Healthcare and community health centers; create a path to citizenship and the American Dream for 800,000 Dreamers; and organize a wave movement to take back the Congress!” Defazio said.
Jessica Miller, a political science major at LCC, marched with concerns about human rights.
“Anybody can make their voice heard by voting. That’s the most important thing they can do,” Miller said.
While voting and political action were overarching themes, numerous political issues brought people to the march. Many were there to protest policies and efforts by the federal government and President Donald Trump to affect environmental policy, health care policy, education systems and LGBTQ+ rights. Hundreds of signs poked up from the crowd of thousands of people.
Kathy Reardon, a resident of Eugene for over 16 years, not only had a sign with a picture of the earth and the words, “Plastic, Plastic, Everywhere,” but also wore plastic trash on her hat and all over her jacket. A large sign on her back said, “One week’s worth of trash”. She was concerned about how the large amounts of plastic produced by people were damaging the Earth.
“For all the children of the world and those that are coming after, we need to figure out what to do with it,” Reardon said.
“I’m concerned about DACA,” Eugene resident Carleen Reilly said. “Our Latino neighbors have been in limbo for so many years. We can’t separate families. We white people need to accept all people as human beings. We have our views broadened by immigrants.”
“I’m here to resist everything Trump does,” Lane County resident Becky Northrop said. “There are a lot more people here than at other protests I’ve been to. People want to make America a democracy again, make America nice again. I like that this protest has people of all ages.”
This year, Woodrich made a few changes to make the march more organized and accessible. Congressman Peter DeFazio provided professional sound equipment so the rally speakers reached more ears. Spanish translations and ASL interpretations were provided. Soromundi Lesbian Choir, Rise!Dance!Resist!, the Raging Grannies and Cross Current performed after the march at Whirled Pies. Samba Ja Drumming Group performed in the street in front of the building, inspiring dancing and conga lines among the march participants.
“People standing up for themselves and others will make the change,” said University of Oregon student Marin Nagle.