In Sacramento’s first year as an official chapter of Women’s March Global, attendees remark on the past, present and future
On Jan. 21, 2017 the first Women’s March became the largest single-day protest in U.S. history, coinciding with Donald Trump’s inauguration. Crowd scientists believe that the women’s march in Washington was about three times the size of the audience at the inauguration. Marchers across the nation protested Trump’s misogynistic statements while advocating for legislation and the protection of human rights.
Just months after the first Women’s March, the #MeToo movement began in full force. Electrified by the widespread misconduct in Hollywood as well as the first year of the Trump presidency, the marchers returned to the streets on Jan. 20, 2018 for the second annual Women’s March.
The beginning of 2019 was marked by increased publicity about the record-breaking number of women in Congress in the “Pink Wave,” as well as news about Sony Music dropping R. Kelly following the release of Lifetime’s documentary in which multiple women accused him of sexual misconduct. Marchers returned to cities across the U.S. this weekend, on Jan. 19, 2019.
Armed with posters, Pussyhats and flags, marchers in Sacramento started their 0.8 mile walk to the Capitol from Southside Park. As they marched along closed streets, accompanied by friends, family and pets, there were others standing along the sidewalk cheering them on. Chants of “No borders, no wall” and “Hey hey, ho ho, Donald Trump has got to go” waxed and waned as the march went on. Led by the Women’s March WOC Contingent of Met High School was a rallying cry of “Si se puede.” There were musicians every few blocks — notably the Davis Raging Grannies. The Raging Grannies, decked in “Granny garb,” held their song sheet binders as they sang of workplace equity and presidential impeachment.
Also at the march was 98-year-old Lollie Rueppel, a veteran of World War II, along with two of her daughters and her granddaughter. During the march, many people stopped to take pictures of or with Rueppel, who smiled from her wheelchair. Rueppel enlisted in the service when she was 21, and her daughter Susan Rueppel describes what a role model she’s been to the whole family.
“Mom was one of only eight women in the military that was an International Morse code operator,” Susan said. “She was a pioneer back in World War II when she was 21 […] She’s been a role model for her five kids for all our lives. And she’s been an activist all her life. […] We are just so appreciative and admire that she has not been the ‘traditional woman’ throughout her whole life, and doing things that other women often don’t do. So she’s just such an inspiration to our family and the world.”
This is the family’s third year in attendance, and Lollie described her beliefs on the importance of the marches and how she feels activism has changed over the course of her life.
“The big thing is people are learning more about [feminism] and that’s what’s important,” Lollie said. “The more people that know about this the better, [so] we can make change in the right direction. That needs to happen always, every year. More people have to get out and let it be known how they feel about things. Yes, it’s a very important job that they should do.”
After reaching Capitol Mall, marchers gathered to listen to speakers who were discussing a range of issues — some first stopped by the food trucks lining 10th Street or at the rows of organizations that were tabling. One of the two emcees, Coco Blossom, tried to encompass the spirit of the event.
“We’re here today to uplift all women,” Blossom said. “We’re here today to stand in unity on this platform to inspire and facilitate grassroots actions. This platform is intersectional, diverse, flexible [and] bringing us all together to bring us together [and] represent what we want and who we are. Today we’re building community on a positive level that will impact all lives to create transformative social change.”
The CEO of Planned Parenthood Affiliates of CA, Crystal Strait, touched upon multiple issues, including reproductive justice, poverty, workplace equity, intimate partner violence, economic security and healthcare accessibility. After the speakers concluded, Miss Shalae, the first black trans performer to headline the Sacramento Women’s March, performed Beyonce covers, closing with “Run the World” and a declaration: “We are feminists as f**k.”
Despite the overall enthusiasm for the march, this year’s event was marked by some controversy after leaders of the national Women’s March organization were charged with anti-Semitism. This was troublesome to many, including 57-year-old Kerry Burton.
“Why would this organization, in general, align themselves with something that even remotely resembles hate,” Burton said. “But in the end, that’s not what we’re about. We’re about inclusion, we’re about human rights, we’re about people of all color, we’re about feminism. Hate like that doesn’t have a place in this group or in this mission at all. It wasn’t started, that way, it shouldn’t be that way in the middle and it shouldn’t end that way.”
Burton described herself as socially liberal, fiscally conservative and formerly Republican. She said that for over the 57 years of her life, she watched the party lose its platform and foundation and said that it alienated her and her beliefs. Burton’s poster talked about the political strides that women had made, including the fact that there are now 131 women in Congress and Democrat Kirsten Gillibrand’s recent announcement about a run for presidency in 2020. At the top, it said “Future’s so bright” along with a pair of sunglasses. Burton attended the march the past two years, but this is the first time she has made a positive, hopeful sign.
“[There’s] a Hawaiian saying that’s like, ‘No rain, no rainbows,’” Burton said, “And sure, two years ago, we were sort of shocked and in disbelief about the kind of person that was elected to the presidency, the highest office in this country. But sometimes, it takes that major event where it just shocks your sensibilities and your intelligence and your senses and says, ‘Okay, now is our time to shift and change.’ […] We’ve made strides, [but we need to] keep working on it, because we’re not there yet, by any stretch. We’re doing the right things, to get people in place who can make those changes and lead instead of posturing for the next election.”
For Burton, this year seems to be the “pay-off” after the #MeToo movement, and she found the atmosphere to be more hopeful than the past two years, with increased Congressional diversity and rising progressive women working towards solutions. Additionally, Burton strongly believes in the power of youth.
“I’m 57, but I absolutely want young, vibrant energy, people who grew up differently and understand you got to work together,” Burton said. “We’re so polarized right now […] Two years ago, I was just kind of in a state of shock that this would happen. It’s also a reminder, don’t sit on your laurels, get out there, vote! Get out there, organize! Get out there and talk to others about it. And that old saying, ‘If you don’t stand for something, you’re going to fall for anything.’ I think a lot of people are falling for anything with 45.”
Representing UC Davis at the march was a coalition of women and female centered organizations. Laurel Low, third-year community and regional development major, serves as vice president for the new club, Students for Reproductive Freedom. They work directly with Planned Parenthood in order to advocate for reproductive justice. Low is concerned about reproductive justice, particularly with regards to the Supreme Court upholding Roe v. Wade.
“I think it’s just our job to make our voices heard at the state level, because I don’t know if those federal protections will be there in a few years,” Low said. “ California is one of the best states in the nation in terms of providing abortion access, but there are a lot of women who live in states where legislators are actively chipping away at those rights. That’s where the fight is really going to be if those federal protections go away.”
Estimates for the size of this year’s march in Sacramento stand around 10,000, which is smaller than in previous years. According to 67 year old Bill Reichle who has attended all three marches, however, the “gusto” from the past remained. He talked about the significance of intersectionality, and how groups can support others.
“Anytime there’s a big movement, people hitch their wagon to it so other groups come,” Reichle said. “It says, time for people to come out. Well, I’m going to push this cause, I’m going to push this cause.”
Despite the smaller crowds, there was evident energy in the mass of people especially as Sacramento city councilmember Angelique Ashby introduced 36 newly elected women in the November 2018 election. Some of those women were attendees of the former marches and according to Ashby, hadn’t even really considered running for office.
“See what a difference two years can make,” Ashby said to the cheering crowd. “Correction — see what a difference you can make.”
Written by: Anjini Venugopal — firstname.lastname@example.org